I am a freelance photographer and visual artist working with National Geographic Russia, VICE UK/USA, De Volkskrant, Takie Dela, Meduza, Novaya Gazeta, others. My photographic practice primarily focuses on the exploration of the issues of modern...
The war in Ukraine, which began on February 24, 2022 at the whim of the President of Russia, overnight ruined the lives of thousands of people. Almost immediately after the outbreak of hostilities, the government of Russia issued decrees that completely cut off the oxygen for free journalists, forbidding them to cover events from a truthful and disadvantageous side for the Russian politicians. Publications and magazines began to close, freedom of speech ceased to exist. As a freelance journalist, I had to leave Russia on March 4 to avoid repressions.
After staying a couple of weeks in Istanbul I felt that I had to be in the center of events, to be closer to the Ukrainians so I went to Moldova where I spent 2 months documenting migration crisis caused by this war. I felt incredible pain for what was happening and the work saved me.
I started documenting the events from the very border with Ukraine at the Palanka checkpoint. After that I worked in temporary accommodation centers, where I communicated with the refugees in more details, writing down their stories. Since the beginning of the war, more than 200 points have been opened across the country in the variety of locations from sports complexes to hospitals. At the Moldexpo - a former exhibition complex and later a covid hospital, I stayed for two months, making the project “Lost Light”.
Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, more than 400 thousand refugees have entered neighboring Moldova, most of whom continued their journey to Europe, but 90 thousand remained on the territory of the Republic. More than 70 thousand of them are minors.
The characters of this story are children from different regions of Ukraine that have been subjected to the Russian aggression - Nikolaev, Kharkov, Kherson and others. All of them live in a temporary accommodation center in Chisinau, Moldexpo. This is a former exhibition complex, and later a covid hospital. Children are forced to huddle in small rooms made of drywall without doors or ceilings, in unsanitary conditions. These boys and girls are acutely worried about leaving home, they miss their relatives, friends who stayed in Ukraine, pets, toys, favorite parks and streets.
Within the framework of the story, with the help of a projector, I overlay photographs from the happy, pre-war past of these children onto their figures and current living conditions thus showing the consequences of this terrible war. I asked the children's parents for the projected photos, we chose them all together - these are the most memorable and dearest images, reminiscent of home, which capture favorite places and moments which were destroyed by the war.
I have also collected and photographed items which I found inside the rooms. These items have been left by children who moved to another refugee center or to Europe. The items have formed the second part of the project.
Mark, 1 month old. Mark was born in Nikolaev right before the start of the war and immediately after that he was forced to leave his home with his mother. The photograph projected onto Mark shows the Ingulsky Bridge. It was taken bу Mark's father, an amateur photographer from а drone. The family loved to walk around this place before leaving the country and watch how the bridge was raised. Mark's father had to stay in the country and joined the army.
Timofey, 6 years old. The bоу fled from Nikolaev together with his mother and brother Arsen after windows blеw out in their house as а result of an explosion. The photo projected onto the bоу shows him walking outside the city in the fields - this was his favorite place to spend time.
Alya, 13 years old. The girl left Mariupol with her sister. Their house was destroyed bу Russian troops. Alya worries about her parents and friends who stayed in the city. Оn the photo projected onto Alya, she and her sister spend time at the playground in the center of Mariupol which the family enjoyed visiting. The site was destroyed according to their acquaintances, who also left the city later оn.
Tima, 8 years old. The boy is from Kherson. Tima fled the city together with his mother and brother, leaving all his toys at home. They took only the essentials in the hope of returning in a few days. But the situation only worsened. The family left because they could no longer endure the bombing and sit in a damp basement. The photo projected onto the boy shows his classmates. Tima loves to study, his favorite subject is mathematics.
Sofia, 7 years old. Before leaving Irpen, she spent 7 days with her mother in the basement of her house. The family's neighbors were killed in the bombing. The photo projected onto Sophia's hands shows her favorite cherry blossoms.
Sasha, 12 years old. The bоу has been living in this camp for а month. Не came with his mother from Nikolaev. Sasha's mother came back to Ukraine trying to get the boy's brother out of the country. He is 19 years old and must go to the army. The photo projected onto the bоу shows him with а guitar. In his native Nikolaev, he spent а lot of time playing, but the family quickly packed their bags and took only the most important things - medicines and warm clothes, they could not take а guitar.
Elmira, 16 years old. She came from Nikolaev, frightened by the prospect of dying during Russian bombing. It was difficult to get to Chisinau - she had to stand in а traffic jam for two days. Elmira was so desperate that she already wanted to go back. Elmira's mother accompanied her to the border. They both were crying during that time. The photo projected onto the girl shows а field of sunflowers near Nikolaev, where she spent time with her friends in Summer.
Slavik, 11 years old. He was born in Kherson, where he has lived all his life. The trip to Moldova as a refugee has been his first trip abroad. Photo projected onto the boy - his favorite place in the city - the Ferris wheel.
Maxim, 4 years old. The boy is from Odessa. At first, when the boy and his mother arrived in Chisinau at the temporary accommodation center, he was afraid to leave the room and experienced severe stress, but several visits to a psychologist helped him get out of boxing and start communicating with other children. The photo shows Maxim himself, on the Black Sea coast with a glass of Pepsi in his hands. From time to time, Moldovan volunteers bring him a drink, although his mother scolds him for that.
Vera, 3 years old, she was born in Nikolaev and came to Chisinau with her brother and mother. Vera's mother hopes that the girl won't remember this time when she grows up. The photo projected onto Vera shows her twin sister Marina, who stayed in Nikolaev with her grandmother.
Kolya, 12 years old. The boy left native village after the his mother was wounded as a result of the shelling of the city of Nikolaev, where she worked in a store. The next day after being wounded, his mother packed a bag and sent the boy to Chisinau. Kolya remembers how he was saying goodbyes to his parents at the border point. He grabbed his father’s hand and did not want to let it go. The photo projected onto the boy shows his football team. Kolya was a defender and dreamed of becoming a professional. Because of the war, the dream is put on hold.
Artem, 10 years old. The boy is from Mariupol. Artem and his mother drove out along one of the short and completely unsafe humanitarian corridors. Together with neighbors who wrote “CHILDREN” in huge letters on their car. When Artyom looked back to look out the rear window, he saw explosions in the distance. His beloved dog Taya, a shepherd, remained at home, which is strongly attached to the boy. He says that the dog is very good and kind, but only in relation to him and his relatives, he can bite strangers. The dog stayed with the neighbors, everything is fine with her, Artem communicates with Taya via video link, but very rarely. Given that the city is occupied by Russian troops, it is not clear when Artyom will be able to return home. The photo projected onto the boy's hand shows Taya.
Andrey, 7 years old. The boy came from Mariupol with his mother. His father and sister disappeared in the explosion. However, Andrei's mother does not tell the boy about that. The photo projected onto Andrei shows the boy himself hugging his sister during her birthday.
Lera, 13 years old. The girl came from Nikolaev together with her grandmother. Lera's mother stayed in Ukraine. Lera remembers the explosion of the rocket and the deafening noise, after which she began to cry, it seemed to her that her house was exploding and the only thing she could do was hiding under the bed. Then her grandmother screamed that she had to run to the basement, where the family spent about а week. The photo projected onto Lera shows а girl in а field with daisies, which was located in the Nikolaev region.
Olya, 16 years old. The girl was forced to leave Odessa bу her parents when they realized that the war was оn the verge. Olya did not want to leave, she resisted this decision for а week. Olya's parents contacted а Chicago family who had stayed with them оn а tourist trip а few years ago, and they agreed to help. The photo projected onto Olya's surroundings shows the girl herself with her friend Varya, оn the seashore. When Olya found this photo, she began to cry.
In December 2022 I organized an exhibition at Dokk1 in Aarhus (Denmark). The exhibition took the form of an installation which recreated living conditions of children - characters of the present story. I built a box made of drywall, 2 x 3 meters - the same as children lived in at the Moldexpo refugee center in Chisinau. I put all the collected items inside together with portraits of the children with the projections and their stories. I have also put wax crayons on the floor inside the room and allowed audience to use them to draw on the walls whatever they wanted. Thus I have made the exhibition interactive and got feedback from the audience in quite an unusual manner.