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Decided not to leave Lviv, didn't even pack a worried suitcase

Photographer Yurko Dyachyshyn's reflection on the first day of the full-scale invasion.

On February 24, 2022, photographer Yurko Dyachyshyn was in his hometown, Lviv. He didn't believe in the possibility of a full-scale war.

“I woke up at night and heard from my wife, who was reading the news on her smartphone, that a war had started. I turned to the other side, thinking it was fake, and I'll check everything in the morning,” Yurko says. When he realized that the war was indeed happening, he started reading the news. "At that time, I was sick and in poor physical shape. However, the reporter's reflex kicked in: I packed my camera, got dressed, and sat in the corridor, expecting explosions, paratroopers landing, or something like that. That's when the air raid siren sounded for the first time," recalls the photographer.

Since 2009, Yurko Dyachyshyn has been collaborating with the AFP agency. Around six in the morning, one of the editors called him, and Yurko went in search of stories in the city. The first wave of panic hit Lviv: everyone was going somewhere, huge lines formed at ATMs and gas stations. Yurko and his wife decided not to leave Lviv, didn't even pack a worried suitcase.

In the following days, Yurko photographed daily: blood donors in the central blood center, the first volunteer warehouses, the arrival of evacuation trains at the railway station, people leaving abroad, the placement of internally displaced families in sports halls and theaters, the weaving of camouflage nets, and other activities behind the lines.

Photo: Yurko Dyachyshyn

About two weeks after the start of the full-scale Russian invasion, the first burials of fallen soldiers began in Lviv. "I photographed a funeral for the first time in early March 2022 – it was very difficult, and I told myself that I would not go to such a shoot again. The next day, I was shooting a funeral again," says Yurko. He explains that in the first days, there was no "excitement" or emotions from work, nor thoughts of shooting a project about the war or reflecting deeply on the topic. Yurko didn't even organize his photos into separate folders, as he used to do before.

Photo: Yurko Dyachyshyn

A few weeks later, colleagues began organizing charity auctions and exhibitions abroad, reaching out for photographs. "This motivated me to look at my photos differently because they could bring money to the military and everyone in need," says Dyachyshyn.

Until February 24, 2022, the photographer had been working on many creative projects, had many plans for exhibitions. "With the onset of war, I completely lost the taste for creativity and art, what was the meaning disappeared," says Dyachyshyn. There were attempts to continue projects; the photographer even agreed to hold an exhibition "Carpathian Shepherds" in the summer of 2022.

From Yurko Dyachyshyn's recent creative series is the "War Nouveau" project, a kind of fictional architectural style (a play on words, combining War and Art Nouveau). "War Nouveau" represents sandbag barriers that are now part of the new urban landscape as a solid architectural form that surrounds us. There is a saying, 'Everything that is postponed now is automatically lost.' I took it as a motto that makes me try to think and do something creative," says Yurko Dyachyshyn.

Photo: Yurko Dyachyshyn

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