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I had a feeling that these could be my last photos of Kyiv

Photographer Alina Smutko talks about the first day of the full-scale invasion


Photographer Alina Smutko was in Kyiv on February 24, 2022. She recalls that she did not expect such a development of events, and she only packed the alarming suitcase due to numerous requests from friends. Alina learned about the beginning of a full-scale war at four in the morning, after the first explosions in Kyiv.

I got a call from my boss, with whom we worked together in the digital department of Suspilny, and the work began. My responsibilities included the digital security of Suspilny's social networks, and I was in contact with our branches in various cities, including Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Sumy, all day long. On the first day of the war, I hardly took any photos," Alina Smutko recalls.


In the evening, the photographer packed her things and camera and went by tram to the news office. Journalists of the department needed help, and all the employees of Sospilny participated in the monitoring of events.

I just occasionally went outside with a camera. At that time, I had no idea what kind of damage this or that type of weapon could cause and how safe it is to be outside in general. My colleagues and I ran out for coffee at a coffee shop that still worked on Khreschatyk and Independence Square, Alina says. - I took several photos of deserted Khreschatyk and Maidan. There was a feeling that these could be my last photos of Kyiv.

In the following days, the photographer talked by phone with her family, who were in another city, often went to the train station to see off friends. "Back then, you could shoot everywhere, no one demanded licenses yet. That's why I filmed a lot at the station. Then she went to Poltava, to her family. We set up a storage room at home, filed documents, and filled up the car. It was disturbing to leave my son, even with his parents. I tried to work in the city, but the people around me were as excited as possible and called the police just because I was walking past them with a camera. I simply refused to go outside with my camera until I returned to Kyiv in early March," says Smutko.

Alina Smutko's work changed dramatically after the full-scale Russian invasion. Previously, she worked on sports filming and long-term social projects. For example, she made a large photo project about parents who raise children with disabilities, about their life during quarantine. "I shot a lot of sports, a lot - it was probably half of all my shootings in total," the photographer recalls. A few months after the start of the great war, Alina Smutko began filming mostly current news.

In the summer of last year, we worked on big subjects that were filmed for several weeks. However, I returned to current news again because I got a job at an international photo agency," says Smutko. She adds that she is not continuing any project she worked on before the full-scale war. The exception was the story about teams playing American football in Ukraine. "I offered my colleagues from "Suspilne. Sport" to go with me and see what the players of this League are doing now. Many guys left sports and joined the ranks of the Armed Forces. Unfortunately, some have already died, says Alina Smutko. - It was very important for me to return to these people again, to tell about their new important work".


The project is implemented thanks to the support of ZMIN.Read also:9 Ukrainian photographers tell and show how the great invasion began


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