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Mutilated Izyum. Photo report by Danylo Pavlov from the liberated city

A house in Izyum destroyed by a Russian bomb. September 24, 2022. Photo by Danylo Pavlov


On September 10, 2022, the Armed Forces of Ukraine liberated the city of Izyum in the Kharkiv region from the Russian occupiers. The Russian army left behind destroyed houses, smashed schools and kindergartens, as well as the remains of numerous cluster munitions, tripwires, and explosives. During the five months of occupation, a new cemetery grew in the city and at least 1000 local residents died.

Today, the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers is publishing photos taken by Danylo Pavlov after the liberation of Izyum. He has been a member of the association since 2022.

The death

The town of Izyum, Kharkiv region, has been under Russian occupation since April 2022. The Armed Forces of Ukraine liberated the town on September 10, 2022. According to the National Security and Defense Council, since the full-scale Russian invasion, Izyum has suffered the most air strikes by Russian troops - 476. About 80% of the city's infrastructure was destroyed, and at least 1000 civilians were killed.

During the occupation, residents of Izyum hid in basements, waited for shelling, lived in difficult conditions without electricity and heating, and could not receive medical care and medicines in time. People were taken for interrogation and tortured. Immediately after the liberation, volunteers began to regularly come to Izyum with humanitarian aid.


The streets of a destroyed city. September 24, 2022. Photo by Danylo Pavlov


Izyum and its residents after the de-occupation of the city. September 24, 2022. Photo by Danylo Pavlov


The entrance to one of the apartments of the destroyed building. September 24, 2022. Photo by Danylo Pavlov


A photo of a resident in the entrance of a house in Izyum. September 24, 2022. Photo by Danylo Pavlov


In the town of Izyum, mass graves were discovered with people killed in battle, murdered, and tortured during the Russian occupation. 447 bodies, including children, were raised from the mass graves. The bodies were exhumed and sent for forensic examination. The crimes of Russian troops in Izyum are currently being investigated by Ukrainian and international experts.

The forest

The photographer Danylo Pavlov was in Izyum before the start of the full-scale Russian-Ukrainian war. He remembers Izyum as a picturesque city divided in half by the Siverskyi Donets River. "The most impressive thing was the exhumation of bodies, its scale. On the approach to the cemetery, hundreds of meters away, you could smell a characteristic odor. Everything on the cemetery grounds is permeated with it, even the sand. So many dead people buried among the woods...", - Danylo Pavlov recalls.


The last exhumation of bodies in the forest near Izium. September 23, 2022. Photo by Danylo Pavlov


The town was slowly recovering from the experience. For a long time, the residents of Izyum lived without electricity, light, and water. People stood in lines waiting for humanitarian aid. A car would arrive, and volunteers would distribute bread, food, and warm clothes. No one knew exactly when the next aid truck would arrive.

"It seems to me that humanism is a bit dulled in situations where it's about survival. People were pushing each other on the way to the humanitarian truck. One woman almost broke her husband's finger in a fight for things," says Danylo Pavlov. All of Ukraine sent clothes and food to Izyum, and volunteers brought large trucks with aid. The locals were afraid that there would be no more humanitarian aid, so they were massively disassembling everything and storing it in their homes.


People in lines for humanitarian aid. September 24, 2022. Photo by Danylo Pavlov


Candy

People came up to Danylo Pavlov and asked him about the situation in Ukraine. The residents of Izyum were completely misinformed, not knowing when they would have electricity and communication.

"I was struck by one case. Volunteers gave a teenage boy a wrapped box, and no one knew its contents. It turned out that there were candies inside. "There was a shortage of sweets in the city, and everyone immediately surrounded the boy," recalls Danylo Pavlov. "The boy was giving everyone one candy. Some adult uncle attacked him and wanted more. The teenager said he wanted to bring the candy to his sister. The man began to quarrel and swear. Imagine an adult trying to take candy from a child."


Children with candy. September 23, 2022. Photo by Danylo Pavlov


A boy in line for humanitarian aid. September 23, 2022. Photo by Danylo Pavlov


Danylo remembers a girl who watched the distribution of humanitarian aid with a devastated look. She came with her mother, who was actively sorting through the items. "Suddenly, the girl found a dress among the piles of junk and her eyes just started to shine. It moved me to tears," - the photographer says.


"Suddenly, a girl found a dress among a pile of junk and her eyes just started to shine." September 23, 2022. Photo by Danylo Pavlov


 

Danylo Pavlov is a Ukrainian documentary photographer. He is a member of the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers. He has been published in numerous Ukrainian media and various foreign publications, including the Washington Post, The Times, and Forbes.

 

Photo editor at Reporters.media, photographer at The Ukrainians.

 

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 Foundation.

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