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The small one is protected by the big one. Olena Huseynova analyses the Photo of the Week


Photo by Iva Sidash on 24 February 2024 in Washington, DC, at the Lincoln Memorial during a rally to mark the second anniversary of the full-scale invasion.


In August 2022 I had to leave Ukraine for a short time. It was the first time since the start of the full-scale invasion. I was going to Helsinki for a poetry festival. For this trip, I ordered a bumbag in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. I also had an inscription made on the bag. I chose two lines from Lesya Ukrainka's classic poem, the one in which she asks why the word is not hardened as steel or a sharp, ruthless sword. "It will be my sword to sever all shackles, Through tyrants' strongholds, its lightning will crackle." was written on the yellow half of my yellow-blue bumbag. The poet Yulia Musakovska, a friend of mine, translated these lines into English for me. I learned the translation by heart. I imagined how the wonderful people I would meet on this trip would ask me: "What is that written on your bag?'. And I would quote Lesya Ukrainka and people's hearts would be filled with an irresistible desire to join in the severing shackles and tyrants' strongholds. But nobody asked.


Iva Sidash took this photo on 24 February 2024 in Washington, DC, at the Lincoln Memorial, during a rally marking the second anniversary of the full-scale invasion. The boy is sitting on the steps of the monument. A large Ukrainian flag is waving above him. He is holding a small Ukrainian flag. The small one is protected by the big one.


We can't see the blue part of the flag, but we can draw it in. Eventually, we can draw in the Lincoln Memorial, where the boy is sitting. And the Reflecting Pool, which stretches from here to the World War II Memorial. And a girl with a loudspeaker shouting "Ukraine will win". And a woman holding a placard "Free the defenders of Chernobyl" high above her. And a Ukrainian veteran wiping away tears, with American veterans next to him, urging to support the Ukrainian military and protect themselves. And a lot of other yellow-blue flags. Small and large.


In Natalka Vorozhbyt's play Green Corridors, a Viennese benefactor, both noble and lustful, so that you don't know whether he's trying to help a Ukrainian refugee or seduce her, says: "These Ukrainians are so funny, they wear their symbols all the time." But to hold a yellow and blue flag in your hand, big or small, or to carry a bumbag with a quote from Lesya Ukrainka on it is distressing. Because it means waiting for a question. Waiting for an opportunity to find clear, sparkling words to tell what it means to live in a country that has resisted Russian aggression for ten years, or what it means to leave a country where a destructive war has been going on for two.


We are grateful to work.ua for their support of the photography community and for helping to empower Ukrainian voices.

 

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.


Iva Sidash is a documentary photographer based in Lviv, Ukraine. She is a finalist of the international competition Fujifilm Moment Street Photo Awards 2021. She works with personal projects, long test stories, documentary, and reportage photography.

Since the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, she has been documenting the Russian-Ukrainian war, focusing on civilians and their lives.

Her work has been published by INSIDER, The Financial Times, Der Spiegel, The Fisheye Magazine, The Ukrainians, Bird in Flight, etc. Her pictures have been shown in group exhibitions in Europe and the United States. In April 2023 she received a direct grant from the International Centre of Photography to study documentary practices and visual journalism in New York. In September 2023 she had her first solo exhibition "The Wall: Witness of the War in Ukraine" at the Roberta Art Gallery in Wisconsin, USA.


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