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People, like me, didn't understand at all what was happening

Photographer Pavlo Dorohoi reflects on the first day of the full-scale invasion

On February 24, 2022, photographer Pavlo Dorohoi was in Kharkiv.

"I woke up at five in the morning from my mom's call, who, in tears, said she hears explosions and sees a glow in the sky. Half-asleep, I told her it might be fireworks," recalls Pavlo Dorohoi. Then he started reading the news, texting with friends, and realized that these were not fireworks.

Pavlo lives outside the city, in the western part, so he didn't hear any explosions. "It was a very strange feeling: outside the window, birds were singing, snow was lying, everything was beautiful, and in the news, some horror was unfolding," says the photographer. That same day, he went with his camera to work as a fixer for foreign media. He didn't even take a charger with him because he hoped to return home in the evening.

Military from the 92nd Assault Brigade arriving in Saltivka

“My first thoughts were about my ex-wife and son, who were not with me. We tried to decide together whether they should leave or not. I tried to get permission for shooting because back then, I was still afraid to shoot without it. I decided that if I am with accredited journalists, I can work calmly,” says Pavlo. He photographed soldiers from the 92nd Assault Brigade who arrived in Saltivka. He saw the first knocked-out Russian APC, several women soldiers in full gear—it was very unusual. "Where we were, loud explosions began. Later, I realized it was air defense, but foreign journalists decided to leave. I also shot the metro station "Heroes of Labor," which was crowded with frightened people who, like me, didn't understand what was happening," says Dorohoi.

Kharkiv Metro Station "Heroes of Labor" on February 24, 2022

The next night and until April, Pavlo lived in the apartment of friends in the center of Kharkiv. Initially, there were three of them, but in early March, friends left for Ternopil. Pavlo Dorohoi brought his mother to his place, who stayed alone on the ninth floor. There were no more residents in the building on Saltivka where Pavlo's mother lived. "I returned home, where I lived until February 24, in April and never left it again," says Pavlo Dorohoi.

Road from Kharkiv on February 28, 2022

The project is being implemented thanks to the support of ЗМІN.

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