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Until 24 February, UAPF publishes key photographs by Ukrainian documentary filmmakers over two years of full-scale invasion

This year marks 10 years since the Russians have been trying to kill Ukrainians, and 24 February marks the second anniversary of the northern neighbour's attempts to achieve its goal with particular cruelty. The largest war in Europe since the Second World War is multifaceted, it has many faces, symbols, images, and heroes that convey its essence. The war is in the touches, in the eyes and hearts of civilians and soldiers, in the helping hand of rescuers, in the trenches and in empty destroyed homes, in the walls of rehabilitation centres, in temporarily occupied Mariupol and Bakhmut, in dilapidated Nikopol and wounded Kharkiv, in the heart of Kyiv and on the Black Sea. War is not a geographical concept, it is omnipresent.

What kind of war do those who look at it through the prism of their camera see? What is hidden behind the shots that are embedded in the memory of the photographers themselves? To mark the second anniversary of the full-scale invasion, UAPF has collected key images by Ukrainian documentary filmmakers that highlight pain, loss, resilience, humanity, hope, home, and everything that the word "war" takes away or adds.

Kateryna Moskaliuk

"For me, this photo is the best illustration of true feelings and mutual support. The photo is about hope and light, which are becoming harder to find every day," says Kateryna Moskaliuk.

Ivan and Anna Marchak watch a film together at the Superhumans prosthetics and rehabilitation centre. 20 September 2023. Photo by Kateryna Moskaliuk

Ivan Marchak is the subject of Kateryna Moskaliuk's photo. He has been serving in the Armed Forces since autumn 2021. He met the full-scale war in the village of Malekine near Mariupol. The serviceman received the badge "For Exemplary Military Service". In October 2022, he was demining the liberated territories in the Kherson region, and a few months later, in February 2023, he was wounded during a combat mission. He underwent prosthetics and rehabilitation at the Superhumans Centre, where the documentary filmmaker met him and his wife.

Viacheslav Ratynskyi

Zhytomyr is the photographer's hometown, which was attacked by Russians in the first hours of the invasion on 24 February 2022.

"I arrived in the city on the third day of the war to see how my hometown and its residents were surviving the invasion. The first rockets had already hit the city, the Zhytomyr-Kyiv highway had been cut, and there were already battles in the north and west of the region. People were shocked and scared, but they wanted to defend their city and country. They had a choice to make: flee or defend. The city was preparing to be surrounded, following the example of Chernihiv, Sumy, Kherson or Mariupol. In the early days, it was still possible. Many people joined the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and unarmed people built barricades around the city, learned to throw Molotov cocktails at Russian tanks as they approached the city," says Vyacheslav Ratynskyi.

Residents of Zhytomyr prepared for the siege, built barricades and checkpoints at all entrances and exits, and prepared bottles and petrol for Molotov cocktails. Zhytomyr. February 2022. Photo by Viacheslav Ratynskyi

Pavlo Dorohoy

"For me, this photo carries light and hope for the future, no matter what," explains Pavlo Dorohoi.

A destroyed house in the village of Dovhenke, Izium district, Kharkiv region. The night of 13-14 May 2023. Photo by Pavlo Doroho. 

Sergey Mikhalchuk

The remains of the world's largest AN-225 Mriya aircraft next to Russian military equipment. Gostomel. Spring of 2022. Photo by Serhiy Mykhalchuk

Valentin Kuzan

"I took this photo in the most difficult conditions I've ever been in: during training, walking fast in formation with weapons, wearing armour and a heavy backpack soaked from the constant rain. Knowing that I would not have access to a camera, I even updated my phone before mobilisation so that it would take better pictures. In fact, this is what was filmed on it. In short, while I was a civilian photographer, I lacked an inside view, and this is how I saw what it was like to be a military man - on my own skin. And now I have the opportunity to devote all my photographic attention to the war," says Valentyn Kuzan, who is currently serving as a photojournalist for the 72nd Separate Mechanised Brigade named after the Black Cossacks.

A soldier in training after difficult conditions. Autumn 2023. Photo by Valentyn Kuzan

Kostiantyn and Vlada Liberovi

"We chose this photo because it was taken in the most difficult and dangerous conditions. This photo shows how terrible the everyday life of our military is and how cruel this war is," said Vlada Liberova.

A soldier of the 109th battalion of the 10th mountain assault brigade "Edelweiss" in the Kupyansk direction near Sinkivka, 100-150 metres from the enemy, was under endless shelling. Two soldiers were wounded during the attack. 27 January 2024. Photo by Kostyantyn Liberov

Yevgen Samuchenko

"Ecocide is the destruction of Ukrainian nature in the Black Sea by the military actions of the Nazis. Since the beginning of the racist invasion and their military actions, mass deaths of dolphins and other marine life have been recorded in the Black Sea," says Yevhen Samuchenko.

The skeleton of a dolphin killed in the war, washed up on the Black Sea coast by waves. Tuzly Estuaries National Park, Odesa region. October 2023. Photo by Yevhen Samuchenko

Yakov Lyashenko

"This photo shows the horror faced by civilians on the frontline. At that time, the Russians were destroying Bakhmut every day, and the fighting was already on the outskirts of the city," says Yakiv Lyashenko.

On Christmas Eve, 24 December 2022, a resident of Bakhmut is forced to collect water in a puddle, as all communications have been destroyed by Russian military operations. Photo by Yakiv Lyashenko

Marian Kushnir

"No one knew that there was anyone else in this village of Teterivske. At that moment, the Russians were actively shelling the village. Valentyn, a 90-year-old grandfather, did not want to leave his almost destroyed house. We had to run, but we couldn't leave without him. We managed to save him in a wheelbarrow. Valentyn took a portrait of his youth from the house. The press officer of the 10th Brigade carried his grandfather about 2 km to the vehicle like this. Then we handed it over to the volunteers. His son found it somewhere in Zhytomyr. Now I know that this grandfather died. He passed away with his family and from old age, not alone and because of the war," says Marian Kushnir.

A press officer of the 10th separate mountain assault brigade "Edelweiss" evacuates the last resident of Teterivske village, 90-year-old grandfather Valentyn. Northern Kyiv region. March 2022. Photo by Marian Kushnir

Yevhenii Zavhorodnii

"It's hard for me to add anything to this photo. This is the truth of war. But, in addition to blood and death, I see rage and mutual assistance here," explains Yevhenii Zavhorodnii.

A combat vehicle leaves the battle near Bakhmut under the cover of smoke. 8 February 2023. Photo by Yevhen Zavhorodnyi

Alexander Rupeta

"The man received a shrapnel wound to the chest. He is in a serious condition. Despite the constant threat of enemy attacks, rescuers successfully pulled him and the woman's body from the rubble of their home. Nikopol, located on the right bank of the Dnipro, is under constant attack as Russian troops have occupied the left bank of the river," said Alexander Rupeta.

Rescuers provide first aid to a man wounded by Russian shelling in Nikopol. 20 November 2023. Photo by Oleksandr Rupeta

Sergey Korovainy

"I've been working on environmental issues for a long time, covering the consequences of the factories in Mariupol. Now this photo and this story have acquired a completely different meaning. The problems, challenges and symbolism are completely different. And I chose this particular photo because I miss my Mariupol and my Donetsk region," explains Sergey Korovainy.

A fisherman looks at Azovstal in Mariupol at dawn. March 2021. Photo by Sergey Korovainy

Oleksandr Magula

"The key photo for me is the one I took at the beginning of the invasion. At that time, the Russians had just withdrawn from Kharkiv and it was safer in Northern Saltovka. I was able to see the area from the 16th floor and visually assess the extent of the destruction," explained Magula.

A view of Northern Saltovka, a residential area in Kharkiv that has been most affected by Russian shelling. May 2022. Photo by Oleksandr Magula

Oleg Palchik

"This is a story about a soldier who, having lost his leg while serving in the ATO, not only refused to be a victim, but rejoined the Armed Forces when the full-scale invasion began. For him, the absence of one leg is not an obstacle, but only a new challenge. And now he is not just a driver, but the driver of a huge truck carrying a C-60 cannon. Imagine this: a huge machine roaring like a beast under the command of a man who, with the help of a crutch and his indomitable spirit, drives it almost better than any other driver. This soldier is a living symbol of the fact that nothing is impossible for those who have true courage and unwavering faith in their own strength. He demonstrates that limitations are only a state of mind, not a state of body," explains Oleg Palchyk.

A serviceman who lost his leg during the ATO returned to the Armed Forces after a full-scale invasion. Kharkiv region. Summer of 2023. Photo by Oleh Palchyk

Yuriy Dyachyshyn

A Ukrainian soldier performs rehabilitation exercises at the Truskavets City Hospital. March 2023. Photo by Yuriy Dyachyshyn

George Ivanchenko

"Bakhmut 2023. There is a complicated story here, no specifics, but most likely it is a Ukrainian soldier who was wounded and then froze to death. He appeared here, as did the inscription 'Merry Christmas from Prigozhin' on the night of 6-7 January. On Christmas Day. The police and services, of course, did not give us a specific answer as to who the man was, and it is also impossible to tell from his uniform," explains George Ivanchenko.

An unidentified dead soldier. Bakhmut. 7 January 2023. Photo by George Ivanchenko

Alexander Ratushniak

"In my opinion, this is a sensitive photo. On a destroyed bridge in Irpin, a Territorial Defence soldier is calming an elderly man. Explosions are heard in the background," says Oleksandr Ratushniak.

Evacuation from Irpin, Kyiv region. 9 March 2022. Photo by Oleksandr Ratushniak / AP

Eugene Gertner

"This photo reminds me a bit of Michelangelo's 'Creation of Adam'. It shows how desperately the SES employees are extinguishing the fire and searching for people under the rubble. The problem was that gas was still burning under the rubble, and they were unable to turn it off. As a result, people were trapped under the rubble. The rescuers tried to extinguish the fire as quickly as possible in order to get people out alive from the rubble. "This photo is meaningful to me because I was next to those firefighters, breathing that smoke and steam, seeing and experiencing everything they did," says Yevhen Gertner.

Rescuers are looking for people under the rubble. The rescue operation lasted almost 24 hours. Kharkiv. 23 January 2024. Photo by Yevhen Gertner


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