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The sea is gone. A documentary project by Oleksandr Rupeta

The project "Photo Documentary Filmmakers on the Frontline: Supporting Ukrainian Photographers and Their Projects" is a micro-grant program from the UAPF that helps support Ukrainian documentary photographers who risk their lives to tell the truth about the war in Ukraine.

Today we are sharing a series of documentary works by 10 finalists, namely the project by Oleksandr Rupeta.

The sea is gone

The locals called the reservoir the sea. The huge Soviet-era project was planned as the largest reservoir in the world. With a length of 230 km and a width of up to 25 km in some places, it was one of those great Soviet projects that did not take into account either environmental damage or human lives. When the reservoir was filled, the water buried the territory of Velykyi Luh, the most important historical heritage of the formation of the Ukrainian Cossacks.

However, over 65 years, much of southern Ukraine, including urban infrastructure and agriculture, has become dependent on the reservoir.

On June 6, 2023, after the Russians blew up the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant, the water from the reservoir disappeared. The Kakhovka Sea ceased to exist.

The question of the future of the hydroelectric power plant is complicated. Environmentalists and historians advocate the preservation of the historical territory of the Velykyi Luh. But now, even staying on the shore of the former storage facility is a threat, as the left side of the Dnipro along the storage facility is occupied by Russian troops and shelling continues daily, destroying coastal settlements and causing casualties among the population.

Ruslan, 50, stands at the bottom of a former reservoir near the village of Maryanske,

Dnipropetrovska oblast. Ruslan says that the water's departure has made his life's dream of reviving Velykyi Luh come true.

A street on the banks of the Dnipro River in Kherson, which was completely flooded. Now almost all houses in the area are empty, people do not return because of the constant shelling of this part of the city.

Parishioners sit at a table after morning prayer. The church in the Kherson neighborhood locally known as Ostrov was flooded. Every week, residents of the Island gather in the opposite part of Kherson for Sunday sermons.

Serhiy, a biologist by training, is recording changes in water levels in the Kherson region since the dam was blown up. He is preparing a presentation based on his research.

Serhii, 68, guards the territory of the Kherson Research Meteorological Station, which is inoperable after the flooding.

Maryna, a researcher at the National Museum of Natural History of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, demonstrates the skull of a slipstream, a rodent common in the area that was flooded after the hydroelectric power plant explosion.

The bottom of the Kakhovka Reservoir near the village of Maryanske, Dnipro region.

Myroslav, deputy director of the Nikopol Museum of Local Lore, descends to the bottom of a former reservoir, Dnipropetrovs'k region.

Mykola, 75, and Myroslav, 65, proclaim a traditional Cossack toast at the historic site of the Sich next to a former water reservoir, Dnipro region.

Oleh, a researcher at the Khortytsia Nature Reserve, inspects the island's shore in search of archaeological artifacts that have been brought to the surface by the receding water.

The Ukrainian Scientific Center for Marine Ecology in Odesa is analyzing water for contamination as a result of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant explosion.

Yuriy Oleynik, an employee of the Odesa Institute for Environmental Research, analyzes water samples from Mykolaiv and Kherson regions after the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant explosion.

Before the water rose, the width of the reservoir between the Nikopol embankment and the Zaporizhzhia NPP on the opposite bank was more than 10 km.

Construction of one of the main water supply lines for the regions affected by the explosion of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant, Dnipropetrovs'k region.

Bohdan, 14, and Dima, 10, are brothers who live on the Kherson island. Despite the

the consequences of the flooding and constant shelling, they have no plans to leave their home.

A pistol and a knife were left on the floor of a house looted by looters. The streets of Kherson adjacent to the Dnipro River were completely flooded. Due to Russian shelling, residents are in no hurry to return to their homes.

High-rise buildings on Kherson's Ostrov, a territory separated by the Dnipro River from the

from the rest of the city. The first floors of the buildings were flooded due to the hydroelectric power plant explosion. On the island almost no inhabitants left, with Russian troops stationed on the left bank a few kilometers away. a few kilometers away.

In the village of Bilenke, Zaporizhzhia region, the water level dropped by more than 5 meters.


Oleksandr Rupeta is a documentary photographer from Ukraine who works around the world. He is mainly interested in social anthropology and social conflicts, with a particular focus on the individual. Oleksandr is a member of the International Federation of Journalists, the Federation of European Photographers, the Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers (UAPP).

The program is supported by the International Press Institute.


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