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How Ukrainian Photographers are Covering The War

As the war in Ukraine continues to spread fear throughout the world, Blind collected testimonies and images from Ukrainian photographers on the ground. They tell their personal story.

To be a Ukrainian photographer while your Russian neighbor is invading your country, means first of all to face a new terrain, risky working conditions, images you might not have imagined taking close to home. It is above all a heartbreaking human story. These photographers have the same story as the civilians who flee Ukraine, or those who stay to defend it, with the difference that they wear a camera around their neck. How to be impartial, to deliver an honest message, when one is touched by such violent feelings?

Of course, the few images we are publishing today reflect only one side of the conflict. They were taken in different places, tell different stories. The looks of these photographers focused on their people, their children, the places where they flee, take refuge, the places where they are affected by the conflict.

Pavel Petrov, one of them, sent us in his stream of still images a small video playing on his computer, re-filmed in the dark with his cell phone. It shows a fireman putting out a fire. “This is a go-pro camera on my helmet. This is my work.” A silence and then he continues: “Dead bodies.”

We prefer not to show you this video, available on social networks. But the gesture of Pavel Petrov, sharing as much as possible with the rest of the world, testifies to the mission that Ukrainian photographers who cover “their” war have given themselves: to inform, even if they’re risking their lives.

Oksana Parafeniuk, 32 years old, writing on March 1st, 2022

The trauma is ongoing, It’s hard to put this devastating experience all Ukrainians are living through into words. My husband, my sister and I left our home and we switched 4 places to live in the last 5 days. I think it’s important to understand how much more difficult it is for local photographers to work here, while we are living the war ourselves, while we might be displaced leaving home with the bare minimum of things, or working in dangerous conditions, while our friends and relatives might have stayed in the cities under bombardment. 

The night when the full-scale war started, I couldn’t sleep at all reading the news, just like many nights before that. Around 5 am I heard the first two explosions in Kyiv and woke up my husband. It was the moment I would never be able to forget. That and a lot of others. Each second of this war will stay in memory. 

Participants of the civil-defense training, organised by a far-right political organization National Corps and held on the grounds of an abandoned heavy machinery factory on Kyiv’s western outskirts, train with wooden makeshift weapon in Kyiv, Ukraine on February 6, 2022. In recent months, civil-defense trainings became more widespread in Kyiv and in other major Ukrainian cities, some of which organised by formal institutions like the Territorial Defense Forces, that is a reservist force of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. In recent months, Russia has amassed roughly 130,000 troops and military equipment near the Ukrainian border, raising the tension and worries of a possible larger scale invasion into Ukraine. Ukraine has been at war with Russia for almost 8 years now, when in 2014 Russia annexed Crimea and launched the conflict in eastern Ukraine by fuelling separatist sentiments, sending troops and supporting pro-Russian forces. © Oksana Parafeniuk
Participants of the civil-defense training, organised by a far-right political organization National Corps and held on the grounds of an abandoned heavy machinery factory on Kyiv’s western outskirts, train with wooden makeshift weapon in Kyiv, Ukraine on February 6, 2022. © Oksana Parafeniuk
Local residents came for the Sunday service to the Saint Paraskeva church in Kalynivka, Vinnytsia region, Ukraine on February 27, 2022. © Oksana Parafeniuk
Local residents came for the Sunday service to the Saint Paraskeva church in Kalynivka, Vinnytsia region, Ukraine on February 27, 2022. © Oksana Parafeniuk

Sergey Korovayny, 27 years old, writing on March 2nd, 2022

I’m a Ukrainian photographer from the Donetsk region, which was occupied by Russia 8 years ago. When Russia openly invaded Ukraine, I woke up in Kharkiv from the sound of explosions. The next three days were a nightmare. From Kharkiv, I drove to Kyiv to join my wife. We spent hours in a shelter, saw one of the first Russian saboteur groups, and I had an awful feeling of deja vu, as if I went back to 2014 and my home town is captioned by Russians again. We left for Lviv, and for two days the road was full of despair, bad news, traffic jams, and gasoline shortage.

In Lviv, however, I succeeded to transform my despair into action: raising humanitarian aid and photographing everything around. Now I’m driving back towards Kyiv and ready to continue documenting the Russian invasion, until Ukrainian victory.

Refugees from Kharkiv, Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities where the Russian offensive is taking place have been placed in the Lesya Kurbas Theater in Lviv. 28 February 2022 © Sergey Korovayny
Refugees from Kharkiv, Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities where the Russian offensive is taking place have been placed in the Lesya Kurbas Theater in Lviv. 28 February 2022 © Sergey Korovayny
Lviv railway station has become a hub from which people try to leave for Ukraine by train. They are fleeing a full-scale Russian invasion that began on February 24, 2022. © Sergey Korovayny
Lviv railway station has become a hub from which people try to leave for Ukraine by train. They are fleeing a full-scale Russian invasion that began on February 24, 2022. © Sergey Korovayny

Pavel Petrov, 26 years old, writing on March 3rd, 2022

I want my country to be free and I am at war on my front, the one of photography. I wish other people in the world to never see at home what my homeland sees. It is very difficult to work in such conditions, but it seems to be necessary that I continue to document what is happening in Ukraine. For history and truth.

Kyiv. street Kosice, 7a. As a result of an unknown object falling under the house, the balconies of the front part from the 1st to the 8th floor of a 15-storey residential building were destroyed, followed by a fire on the 11th floor, as well as external structures in 3 entrances. It was horrible, but fortunately no one was killed. © Pavel Petrov
Kyiv. Street Kosice, 7a. As a result of an unknown object falling under the house, the balconies of the front part from the 1st to the 8th floor of a 15-store residential building were destroyed, followed by a fire on the 11th floor, as well as external structures in 3 entrances. © Pavel Petrov
Kyiv. street Lobanovsky, 6-a. As a result of the shelling by the Russian Federation, the rocket hit a residential building! As a result, 17 to 21 floors were damaged. There was a major collapse, so rescuers immediately began evacuating and extinguishing the fire. This photo is an example of the dedication of firefighters who, despite enemy shelling, continue to work. © Pavel Petrov
Kyiv. Street Lobanovsky, 6a. As a result of the shelling by the Russian Federation, the rocket hit a residential building. As a result, 17 to 21 floors were damaged. There was a major collapse, so rescuers immediately began evacuating and extinguishing the fire. © Pavel Petrov

Oleksandr Chekmenov, 52 years old, writing on March 4th, 2022

In this wartime, I follow certain rules. First of all, the photographer must save children and women. Then save the negatives and the camera. Only then take care of himself.

My daughter Nastenka is 16 years old. She refused to be evacuated and said: “Dad, this is my land. This is my home. My two little brothers and my friends are here. I won’t leave them. I’m staying here.” So I asked her to make a documentary film. This year she will enter the operator faculty. This work will be her entrance ticket to the institute and immediately into adulthood as well.

While taking pictures of people, I try to talk to them. This woman in a photo with two children and a rabbit in a green bag… Her name is Alla Pushenko. She is 43 years old and she is lonely. Shocked and confused, she didn’t know where to go. I put away the camera and followed the first rule. Today she is safe in Slovakia.

Probably, I am very far from being a war photographer. But I will keep on working in Kyiv under military attacks. In the city that does not give up.

Allasha Pullenko, a Ukrainian woman, holds her two children during the her evacuation to Western Ukraine, at the train station in Kyiv, on March 1st, 2022 © Oleksandr Chekmenov
Ukrainian people walk on tracks during the evacuation to Western Ukraine, at the train station in Kyiv, on March 1st, 2022 © Oleksandr Chekmenov

To support Ukrainian journalists currently covering the war, please visit the International Press Institute’s website.

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