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Countdown to the future. Photos by Yevhen Zavhorodnyi and Andrii Dubchak from liberated Kherson

Residents of Kherson celebrate the liberation of the city from the Russian occupiers. November 11, 2022. Photo by Yevhen Zavhorodnyi

On November 11, 2022, the Armed Forces of Ukraine liberated Kherson, the only regional center of Ukraine captured by the Russian military since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion. On the city's central square, along the streets, and at the entrance to Kherson, local residents greeted the Ukrainian military. That day there were many hugs, shouts of "Glory to Ukraine!" and tears of happiness.

Today, the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers publishes photos by Yevhen Zavgorodnyi and Andrii Dubchak taken after the liberation of Kherson.


Tears and flowers


The Armed Forces of Ukraine entered Kherson on November 11, 2022. The liberation of the city completed the Kherson offensive, as a result of which the units of the Ukrainian Defense Forces advanced 40 km and liberated more than 200 settlements. Crowds of local residents greeted the Ukrainian military on the streets. In the central part of Kherson, on Freedom Square, people hugged the soldiers, asked them to sign their clothes, waved Ukrainian flags and did not hide their tears of happiness. Photographers Yevhen Zavhorodniy and Andriy Dubchak were among the first to arrive in the liberated city. They documented this historic day for Ukraine.


People meet the military at the entrance to the city. November 11, 2022. Photo by Andriy Dubchak


"When we were traveling from Mykolaiv to Kherson, we saw signs on the road with the distance to the city. There were fewer and fewer kilometers left to Kherson, and I perceived it as a countdown to something important. You know how the clock ticks, how they count ten, nine, eight...," says photographer Yevhen Zavhorodniy. "We were driving with great excitement, we wanted to get to Kherson as soon as possible. When I saw these last figures at the entrance to the city, a lump came to my throat, I couldn't speak. Tears just came to my eyes."


Ukrainian soldiers take pictures at the entrance to Kherson. November 11, 2022. Photo by Andriy Dubchak


A real festival of joy and freedom in the city. November 11, 2022. Photo by Yevhen Zavhorodnyi


Smiles and flags


Yevhen Zavhorodnii recalls that in the villages closest to Kherson and at the entrance to the city, local residents stood along the road and greeted the military. The streets of Kherson were filled with people - some were going to the central square of the city, others were standing by the roads with Ukrainian flags. "We stopped near Freedom Square, parked the car and went to the city center. As soon as the soldiers got out of the car, people immediately ran up to them with hugs. It took us a long time to walk a short distance to the square because people would not let the guys go, thanked them, and cried with joy," Zavhorodniy said.


November 11, 2022. Photo by Yevhen Zavhorodnii


Photographer Yevhen Zavhorodnii tried to shoot as many shots as possible, but he had to take short breaks because he was "overwhelmed by emotions." "After the shooting in Kherson, my accreditation was taken away from me. My only regret was that I didn't shoot enough footage and didn't take enough breaks to rest," says Yevhen Zavhorodniy with a smile. He adds that during the filming, he sometimes couldn't control his emotions - the people around him were in euphoria. They were dancing, singing Ukrainian songs, stopping cars with the military to hug and thank them.


November 11, 2022. Photo by Yevhen Zavhorodnii


"I had only a few hours to work. However, sometimes my emotions did not allow me to concentrate and I took breaks. Now it seems to me that I should have worked without any interruptions until the internal charge and the camera batteries were sufficient," says Zavhorodnii.


November 11, 2022. Photo by Andriy Dubchak


In Yevhen Zavhorodnyi's photographs, soldier Dmytro "Garmash" remained young and smiling forever. In the square, against the backdrop of the monument, a local woman hugs the soldier. On March 12, 2023, Dmytro was killed.


Ukrainian soldiers are greeted like rock stars, hugged and asked for autographs. November 11, 2022. Photo by Andriy Dubchak


Yevhenii Zavhorodnii recalls that people would simply run out onto the road to greet the soldiers. Sometimes it could be very dangerous, as some vehicles were on their way to their special missions and had no right to stop. "I barely managed to grab one girl by her jacket so that she wouldn't get hit by a military vehicle. I was very afraid that some tragedy would happen against the backdrop of such significant and happy moments. At the time, Kherson was filled with an incredible atmosphere of happiness," - says the photographer.


Despite all the joy, the city has a lot of problems after the occupation. There is no communication, no heating, no water supply. There is little food in the stores. November 12-13, 2022. Photo by Andriy Dubchak


A television tower in Kherson is destroyed. November 12-13, 2022. Photo by Andriy Dubchak


Due to the lack of water supply, people collect water in the Dnipro River. November 12-13, 2022. Photo by Andriy Dubchak


The Antonivsky Bridge is destroyed. The occupying army is on the other side. November 2-13, 2022. Photo by Andriy Dubchak


 

Photographer Yevhen Zavhorodniy has been shooting for about 20 years for both Ukrainian media and foreign agencies. He began by documenting the events of the Orange Revolution in 2004. His photos were published by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Guardian, Deutsche Welle and others. Prior to the full-scale invasion, he had been photographing the Ukrainian parliament for a couple of years. Since the beginning of the invasion, he has been documenting the consequences of Russian aggression. Yevhen's works have been exhibited at collective exhibitions in Ukraine and the EU.

 

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Andriy Dubchak is the founder and managing director of Donbas Frontliner, an independent media outlet, a reporter and a photographer. He was the first Euromaidan streamer, filmed and streamed many events of the Revolution of Dignity, including the tragic days of February 18, 19, 20, 2014. He also covered the events during the annexation of Crimea. Nowadays, most of his work is aimed at covering the war with Russia in the East of Ukraine. He was born and raised in Kalynivka, Vinnytsia region. He graduated from the Mechanical Faculty of the VDGI, the KPI, the School of Journalism of the Digital Future of the Mohyla School of Journalism, and the Kyiv School of Photography. In 2015, he started taking pictures.


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As a reminder, the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers has launched a series of materials dedicated to the key events of the Russian war against Ukraine, where it publishes memoirs and photographs of Ukrainian documentary photographers.

The project is being implemented thanks to the support of ЗМІN.


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