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"I was most impressed by the resilience of our people." Liberated Kyiv region by Oleksiy Furman

A house destroyed by an air strike in the town of Gostomel. April 2022. Photo by Oleksiy Furman

The Armed Forces of Ukraine liberated the Kyiv region on April 2, 2022. During the occupation, at least a thousand people died there and new cemeteries grew. The Russian army left behind a terrible picture. On the streets of towns and villages lay the bodies of dead civilians, often with signs of torture, on the roads - burnt-out skeletons of tanks and armored vehicles, shot civilian cars, mass graves on both sides of the settlements, and most houses destroyed.

Today, the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers is publishing photos by Oleksiy Furman from the liberated Kyiv region. Oleksiy has been a member of the association since 2022.

Traces of cruelty

In mid-March 2022, active battles for the Kyiv region continued. From March 13 to March 21, clashes continued in Irpin. In the town of Bucha, the Russian military set up firing positions in residential buildings. On March 21, Ukrainian troops liberated the village of Makariv. At the end of the month, the Ukrainian Armed Forces surrounded Irpin, Gostomel, and Bucha. Russian troops began to withdraw from the occupied territories of Kyiv region. Irpin was liberated from the Russian occupiers on March 28, and Bucha on March 31.

On April 2, 2022, the Armed Forces of Ukraine liberated Kyiv region from Russian troops. The joint efforts of the Defense Forces, volunteers, volunteers and local residents managed to resist the Russian army and liberate the region. The Ukrainian military liberated more than thirty settlements in the Kyiv region. "Irpin, Bucha, Gostomel and the entire Kyiv region have been liberated from the invaders," said Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar.

At least a thousand people died during the Russian occupation in Kyiv region. However, the data is not accurate, as new mass graves are still being discovered in cities liberated from the Russian army. Civilians in the Kyiv region were found shot dead with their hands tied. There were signs of torture on the bodies. Russian soldiers shot convoys of cars with the inscription "Children" and civilians, raped women, men and children, and looted. Some settlements in the Kyiv region were destroyed by more than half.

Photographer Oleksiy Furman has been documenting the newly liberated territories of Kyiv region from the Russian occupiers since April 1, 2022. Prior to that, he was on an editorial assignment in Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv, and filmed a friend's funeral in the Chernivtsi region. At the end of March, the photographer bought a car and drove to Kyiv with his colleague Stas Kozliuk. On the eve of their departure, information began to appear that some settlements in the Kyiv region had already been liberated. However, the situation was still quite uncertain.

Funeral of Oleksii's friend in the Chernivtsi region. March 2022. Photo by Oleksiy Furman

The road of death

On April 1, his colleague Sergey Polezhaka shared his photos from Dmytrivka with Oleksiy Furman. On the morning of April 2, Oleksiy also went to Dmytrivka. "What I saw in Dmytrivka reminded me of the scenes I saw repeatedly in the Donetsk region in 2014. Only this time it was near Kyiv, an hour's drive from my home," recalls Oleksiy Furman. He took pictures of destroyed houses, burnt-out skeletons of tanks and armored vehicles. He listened to the stories of the people who stayed behind and watched over their neighbors' houses and their memories of the fighting that had taken place here just a few days earlier.

A broken column of Russian military equipment in Dmytrivka, near Kyiv. April 2022. Photo by Oleksiy Furman

"The worst thing I saw while working in Kyiv region was on the very first day of our work, April 2. It was a section of the Zhytomyr highway between Mriya and Myla, the "road of death". "There were burned cars and burnt bodies next to them," Oleksiy Furman shares his memories, "and a pile of bodies on both sides of the road, which the Russians were probably trying to burn. I took a picture, but did not publish it - such shots should be used at the trial in The Hague, but they are "off limits" for publication in the media." A little further on, Oleksiy saw the body of a man with his hands taped up. Unfortunately, he had to see this detail, the taped hands, later, not far from Gostomel.

Cars shot up and civilians killed on the Zhytomyr highway. April 2022. Photo by Oleksiy Furman

During April, May and June, Oleksiy Furman was actively taking pictures in the liberated towns and villages of Kyiv region. He was in Bucha, Borodyanka, Gostomel, Ozeri, Zaholtsi, Fenevychi, Andriivka, Demydiv, Makariv, and others. On April 6, Oleksiy Furman and a colleague from the UK went to Gostomel - they planned to take photos at the airport. When they did not receive permission, they went to the nearby five-story buildings. Several of the buildings had their floors collapsed, while others were seriously damaged. "When I was taking pictures of one of the buildings with a wide-angle lens, I noticed small wooden crosses located near a flower bed. I came closer and saw name plates on the crosses. I took a few photos and sent them to Getty Images, the agency I was working with at the time. The same evening they were published," says Oleksiy. "The next day I received a message on Viber from an unfamiliar number: "Tell me, did you take the photos in Gostomel?". I answered that yes. "I wanted to say thank you very much for the photo... This is my mother's grave."

"This is my mother's grave...". Gostomel, April 2022. A bearded woman. Photo by Oleksii Furman

A monument to life

While filming in the Kyiv region, Oleksiy and his colleagues met many brave, open-minded and very kind people. In Bucha, they got to know an entire building, and within half an hour of meeting them, the brother and sister, who had been in Bucha during the entire occupation, were already leading the photographers through the liberated city. Oleksiy Furman learned that the brother and sister's neighbor was delivering food to people in the neighboring district on his bicycle during the occupation. "I go with him, and in front of me, a woman is crying, holding a fresh loaf. She gives me a handmade doll as a souvenir," says Furman. He adds that many people from the Kyiv region have not spoken to their families for several weeks. The next day, the photographer and his colleagues brought several old phones and distributed them to the locals. "For several days in a row, the old ladies at the entrance treated us to tea brewed on bricks in the yard. This sincere hospitality of people who have lost so much is always extremely touching," - says Oleksiy Furman.

The destroyed Kyiv region. April 2022. Photo by Oleksiy Furman

The photographer has seen dozens of times how people wandered through the ashes of their homes and tried to catch a glimpse of something familiar and dear. "What impressed me the most was the resilience of our people," - says Oleksiy Furman, - "A few days after the liberation of Ukrainian cities, towns and villages, people whose apartments or houses were damaged beyond repair were already working - re-roofing, installing new windows, cleaning the area."

People are wandering through the burned-out houses. Spring of 2022. Photo by Oleksiy Furman

Life quickly returned to the Kyiv region, and the photographer wanted to capture it in one story. In June, while walking around Borodianka, he saw a girl riding high and joyfully on a swing near the destroyed nine-story buildings and took a photo. "The townspeople loved the photo so much that a monument now stands near the playground, the sculptors of which were inspired by my photo," smiles Oleksiy Furman, "It's a pleasure to be involved in the process of creation, which is antagonistic to the terrible destruction we have been experiencing.

A girl on a swing in Borodianka. June 2022. Photo by Oleksiy Furman


Oleksiy Furman is a Ukrainian visual storyteller, a graduate of the University of Missouri and co-founder of New Cave Media, an immersive storytelling studio in Kyiv, Ukraine. He is a member of the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers. He covered the Ukrainian revolution of 2013-2014, the annexation of Crimea, and continues to work documenting the war in Ukraine. Oleksiy's coverage of the conflict has been recognized by POYi, NPPA, PDN Photo Annual and the Bayeux-Calvados Award for War Correspondents. His work has been published in TIME, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Al Jazeera America, 6MOIS, Der Spiegel, The Guardian, De Standard and the Financial Times. For two years, Oleksiy has been photographing seriously wounded Ukrainian soldiers returning home.

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As a reminder,

that 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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