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How much time and effort will it take for everyone to return? Olena Huseynova analyses the Photo of the Week


On 20 February, 11 Ukrainian children abducted by Russians were returned to Ukraine. The crossing took place in the evening on the border between Ukraine and Belarus, in the Volyn region. Roman Pylypei's photo was taken during this return. It shows no signs of a disaster. The night, a car, the lights on, a woman and a child in the back seat. Everything resembles a nativity scene. A portable two-stage baroque wooden puppet theatre with the appearance of "great joy" in the world being performed.


I am watching this "scene" through the windscreen and see the upper level, the so-called "sky": a woman is talking to the child, and the child is turning towards her as if listening to her words. The picture is almost perfectly symmetrical. The mystery of rescue and return is captured in the orderliness of the frame. But every nativity scene has the "ground" level even if it is not visible. And it is on this invisible bottom floor that the International Criminal Court in The Hague issues an arrest warrant for the Russian president, accusing him of the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children. Re-education camps, forced adoptions, passport confiscation, militarisation of Ukrainian children, war crimes, and crimes against humanity are taking place on the invisible lower level. There is confirmed information about the abduction of almost 20,000 Ukrainian children and unconfirmed information about the abduction of almost 700,000. Fourth Geneva Convention, Additional Protocol I, Rome Statute. International expert groups, conclusions on the gravity of the violation of international law, unwavering commitment to reunite Ukrainian children with their families and communities.


How much time and effort will it take for everyone to return?


This woman and this child are back, and now they appear motionless and porcelain, as they should be on the top floor of the scene. They are also looking through the windscreen, as if from a cinema auditorium, amid the symmetry, harmony, order, and warm light. Their gaze is back to the world they are on their back to. And it's hard to say whether they see a world of anger and hopelessness or quiet reconciliation with the daily invisible work of the "great joy", like the bottom level of a scene.


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Olena Huseynova is a Ukrainian writer, radio host, and radio producer. She has been working at Radio Kultura (Suspilne) since 2016. She is an editor-in-chief in the department responsible for radio theatre and literary programs. Since 26 February 2022, Olena has worked as a live presenter of a round-the-clock information radio marathon at Ukrainian Radio (Suspilne). She is the author of two books of poetry, Open Rider (2012) and Superheroes (2016). She also writes essays and short fiction.


Roman Pylypiy is a Ukrainian photojournalist who documented the Revolution of Dignity and the Russian-Ukrainian war in Donbas at its beginning. Since 2017, Roman has lived in China, working for the international photo agency EPA. During his years in China, he became EPA's China region bureau chief and worked on stories across the country, with a particular focus on human rights.


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