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«Surrealism, which is impossible to get used to». The aftermath of the missile attack on Kramatorsk, photographed by Sasha Maslov

Rescuers clear the rubble at the site of a rocket attack in Kramatorsk. 28 June 2023. Photo by Sasha Maslov


On 27 June 2023, a Russian Iskander ballistic missile hit the Ria Pizza cafe in Kramatorsk. The pizzeria was a popular meeting place for local youth, volunteers, journalists and soldiers stationed nearby or returning from the frontline. The city of Kramatorsk is less than an hour's drive from the frontline, but Ria Pizza offered a brief taste of peaceful life.


The Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers has published photographs by Sasha Maslov, who captured the aftermath of a rocket attack on the popular Ria Pizza cafe in Kramatorsk.


"They hoped their granddaughter was alive"


On 27 June 2023, at around 19:30, the Russian army launched a missile attack on the centre of Kramatorsk. An Iskander ballistic missile hit the popular Ria Pizza cafe in the city, which was crowded. The restaurant was a mess of smashed windows, twisted metal and collapsed walls. The missile strike killed 13 people, including 4 children. At least 60 people were injured, including an eight-month-old baby.


Photo by Sasha Maslov


Photographer Sasha Maslov and his colleagues arrived at the scene the next day, on 28 June. Local residents were still cleaning up their homes, rescuers were still clearing the rubble, and friends and relatives of the pizzeria workers were waiting for news of their loved ones. "I remembered the elderly people - a woman and a man with their hands over their faces. They were sitting on a bench and hoping that their granddaughter was alive," Sasha Maslov recalls. Later, Tatiana and Yurii's eighteen-year-old granddaughter would be found dead under the rubble.


Tetiana and Yurii's eighteen-year-old granddaughter is found dead under the rubble. 28 June 2023. Photo by Sasha Maslov


Photo by Sasha Maslov


"The pizzeria was always full of journalists, volunteers and the military. The missile attack took place on Tuesday, and the day before, on Sunday, we spent a lot of time there with our colleagues: we talked and worked on materials from ten in the morning until seven in the evening," says the photographer. He adds that it was very hard when he learned about the rocket attack on Kramatorsk. There were many of Sasha Maslov's friends there, including foreign photographers, who fortunately all survived.


"I am always amazed by the rescuers, police, military and utility workers who do their job responsibly and calmly. The next day after the 'arrival', the utility workers were removing glass fragments and cleaning everything neatly," says Sasha Maslov. "I saw a girl cleaning her apartment in the window of a neighbouring building. I went up to her floor and knocked on her door. She struck me as calm and peaceful."


Photo by Sasha Maslov


Sasha Maslov explains that he tries not to violate people's personal boundaries and, if they do not want him to, he will not take their picture. However, if he needs to make a portrait of a person, Sasha always asks permission and tries to get closer gently. "Usually people want to share their experiences and tell me what happened to them. People want to share their grief, so I keep their stories, take pictures of them, and in this case I feel that I am doing something useful," says Maslov.


"The staff of the cafe in Kramatorsk, who brought us food a few days ago, were now under the rubble or waiting for news of their family and friends. They didn't know whether they would be found or not," says Sasha Maslov. "This is the surreal situation we find ourselves in all the time. It would seem that we have been living in these conditions for a long time, and we should be able to get used to everything. But I still can't." 


 

Sasha Maslov is a Ukrainian documentary photographer born in Kharkiv. He worked for Ukrainian media before moving to the United States, where he continued his photography career, creating his own projects and collaborating with international publications. At various times, he has worked with publications such as The New York Times, The Guardian, Esquire, Billboard, WWD, and Wall Street Journal Magazine. Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, he has been travelling to Ukraine regularly to document the Russian-Ukrainian war.

 

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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 implemented thanks to the support of IWM Documenting Ukraine.

 


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