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The second winter of wartime. A documentary project by Serhii Korovayny

Documentary photographer Serhii Korovainyi visits the de-occupied villages and towns in Kharkiv and Donetsk regions and records how people survived the occupation and are gradually returning to life.


“We survived! We survived!”

A Ukrainian officer shouted to Yuriy and Halyna from Mala Komyshuvakha when he met them again after the liberation. His brigade held the line here in the spring of 2022. The elderly couple communicated well with the military, and they were painfully leaving the village, retreating to more comfortable lines with heavy fighting.

The war swept through Slobozhanshchyna, leaving behind ruined towns and mangled human lives. Due to its strategic location, the town of Izyum and the surrounding villages were a key point of struggle for the Russian and Ukrainian armies.

In the fall of 2022, the Armed Forces of Ukraine conducted a lightning-fast Kharkiv offensive and liberated territories in Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, including Izyum. The de-occupied territories have exposed the world to more crimes committed by the Russian Federation: the mass grave where 449 Ukrainians are buried is the most powerful example.

But with the end of the occupation, poverty did not end for the local residents of Izyum. Destroyed infrastructure, vandalized buildings, and painful memories. Yurii and Halyna still have no electricity, gas, or communication in their village. Reconstruction is difficult. The fields and forests are mined. Mice and rats have filled the houses. However, there is still room for warmth (from a stove and from family mutual aid), joy from simple things, and children's laughter.

In the Izyum region, life goes on in the second winter of martial law.


Serhii Korovayny is a photojournalist and portrait photographer. He has worked for international publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The Guardian, Financial Times and others. He shoots his documentary projects focusing on the Russian-Ukrainian war, ecology, and various aspects of Ukrainian modernity. He studied in the United States at the Master's Program in Visual Storytelling as a Fulbright Scholar. In 2018, he joined The Gate, a leading Ukrainian photo agency. Sergi's work has been exhibited at numerous solo and group exhibitions in Ukraine, the US and the EU.

The program is supported by the International Press Institute. 


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