In January 2014, in April i was forced to leave her home and hometown due to military events in Donbass. Since 2017 i has lived in Bucha. As a result of the full-scale invasion of Russia in February 2022, I and my family became refugees for the second time. We fled to the Ukrainian city of Uzhhorod. I came to the station and helped people who were brought by evacuation trains. There I photographed portraits of refugees, at the junction of borders, destinies and times.
Alena and her family came from the city of Balakliya, Kharkov region. Their housing was bombed, and they were forced to flee through the green corridor.
The girl is the fifth youngest child in the family, her grandmother is confined to a wheelchair, and her grandfather could not be evacuated. The road to a safe place took 3 days.
Lera lived in Kyiv on Poznyaki district with her parents and little sister Alice. In the morning they woke up because of a strong blast wave that threw them on the bed. The shelter was far away, so they spent nine days in the bathroom hiding from the bombardment. Before the war, a mirrored ceiling was made and the girl was worried that it would collapse. There is a recommendation not to use the bathrooms as a shelter, when a projectile hits, the tile shatters into small pieces and can injure those who are nearby. The family decided to take the children to Spain with their mother. Father stayed in Ukraine.
Uzhhorod March 2022
Maxim’s family did not have time to leave Mariupol because of a broken car which was taken disassembled from the service station. The horrors of war unfolded before the eyes of the boy. At first Max cried, then closed in on itself and stopped responding. Russia destroyed the infrastructure of Mariupol: kindergartens, schools, shops, factories, sports facilities, a drama theater.
The city is almost non-existent.
There were 2 hits in the grandmother’s house, first they hit the roof, then the wall collapsed, instead of the house a large funnel was formed. Then they bombed Max’s apartment and then the family has changed many places for shelter. They ran from one place to another, glass flew out somewhere, a wall collapsed somewhere or a fire started. So they ran around Mariupol. But when there was nowhere to hide, they decided to use the only chance for salvation and left the city on March 17 in a broken car. The car rumbled and this sound is similar to shots. Russian soldiers grabbed their weapons, started shooting, and people in the car raised their hands and shouted — Do not shoot, the car is broken!
The diesel fuel ended in Urzuf, and the car was abandoned there. People were helped to get to the train to another city. When we were passing through Zaporozhye and other cities, we heard explosions. An air raid began in Alexandria. Max was afraid and he asked his grandmother: — The plane? — Airplane? — Now will bang? The boy has repeatedly survived the strongest bombings and now shudders at the slightest knock. Together with his family Maxim left in Slovakia.
When heavy shelling began the boy’s mother was choking with fear, the twelve-year-old son Timur stroked her face and asked: mother, mother, what is wrong with you? Together they lived on the top floor of a multi-storey building. From there, they watched the shelling.
The basement, where they could hide from shelling, was flooded with water and was not suitable for shelter. Therefore, Timur and his mother decided to live with friends on the ground floor. Several times they observed air raids, but almost all the time there was hail. Nastya learned to distinguish this sound, pshshshshshsh. On the first floor there are different sounds than on the upper floors. It was quieter downstairs.
When the street became quiet the worst came. We understood that now it will begin. After this silence came a real hell. Every night when you go to bed, you are afraid that tomorrow you will not wake up. At the end of March, shelling in Kharkov intensified. Friends of Timur’s mother helped to get to the station. When they drove past the damaged Russian equipment, Nastya turned away, Timur, on the contrary, carefully examined. He was fond of military military equipment, studied and read a lot about it, now he saw it with his own eyes. Timur and his mother went to Slovakia.
With his mother Svetlana, brother and sister, Nikita was forced to flee the war from Krivoy Rog. They had nowhere to hide during the air raid, people felt in constant danger. Nikita’s grandmother and father stayed at home. After taking his family to Slovakia, he volunteered for ZSU .The man could avoid military service having three children, but decided that he would not hide behind the backs of the children and went to protect them. Volunteers in Slovakia settled the family in the village. Little Nikita missed his dad. Together with his brother Yegor and his sister, he constantly asked to go home. Having learned that the aggressors had been moved away from the city, the situation in Krivoy Rog had stabilized, Nikita’s mother decided to return home.
Zlata and David
David is 7 years old and Zlata is 5 years old , they lived in Nivki,Kyiv. They went with their mother to Uzhgorod. They rented an apartment for 2 weeks, in the hope that the bombing would stop in a short time. The rent of the apartment is coming to an end, shelling in Kyiv does not stop. The family is looking for an opportunity to go outside Ukraine.
Milana 3 years old. Before the war, she lived alone with her father in Krivoy Rog. They had to leave their home when Russian troops began to approach the city’s borders. The girl and her father are looking for asylum in Poland.
Angelina is 16 years old. They fled to Uzhgorod from Izyum with their mother and stepfather. They took two dogs and two cats with them. There is practically no city, the orcs bombed the residential sector. Angelina’s house was destroyed during shelling. The evacuation took place spontaneously, many local residents remained in the place of hostilities. After the war, Angelina dreams of returning home.
Marina, 26, fled Kharkov with her grandmother and two daughters from the bombing. Baby Eva is constantly naughty, a bottle-fed girl on the road is difficult to prepare milk formula. The family arrived in Uzhgorod and then left Ukraine.
A single mother with a two-month-old baby sat in a damp basement during air raids in Krivoy Rog. Lyuba grabbed her son and ran from the 3rd floor to a shelter across the street. When the fighting moved closer to the city, the woman grabbed a few bags, little Dima and ran to the train. For the whole day, 12 people rode in a stuffy compartment. They found a place for the baby on the shelf, and the woman slept on the floor. Lyuba did not know where she would spend the night, she did not have food, clothes, money, but most importantly, she knew that her child was safe.
Sonya is 13 years old. She lived in Dnepropetrovsk with her brother and mother. As air raid alerts became more frequent and hostilities grew closer to their region, the family left the city and headed for Croatia.
When the war began Zhenya and her family left their hometown of Nizhyn and went to a village to live with their grandmother. After the Russian troops occupied the village, the family escaped from the occupation through the fields and returned to Nizhyn. The air raids did not stop in the city, shelling began when the first victims appeared. The girl’s mother decided to take Zhenya away from the war. They went to a European country where they would have the opportunity to live and work. The rest of the family remained in Nizhyn to defend their homes and their land.
Irina is a biologist, she loved her work in the laboratory. She lived in Irpen with a cat and two dogs. The black one is called Druzhok, and the white one is Day. Irina called the dog my Clear Day with love.
There were constant shelling in the city. Near the house, the Ukrainian military built a checkpoint, the Russians constantly fired at it and attacked it. The roar from shelling is constant. Pieces flew in all directions. Russian troops fired rockets, but Ukrainian troops shot them down. It was scary when two fighters flew in and started dropping bombs on the hospital, the sound was terrible, the windows flew out, it happened twice. First, gas was lost in the city, then electricity, water and communications. There was no heat, they warmed themselves near the fire, and they cooked food there. It was very cold, they slept in winter shoes.
The woman united with other residents. They cooked food together, got water from the lake, shared food, supportedeach other. Stress was experienced in different ways, someone mobilizes, and how the energizer pulls others up. The main thing is to constantly give yourself tasks: get up, carry firewood, sort out the dishes, peel potatoes, you need to be busy with something. Irina did not plan to evacuate, that day she was going to fry a duck on a fire, journalists sometimes came. Volunteers arrived under the bombing, grabbed Irina, animals, a backpack. They stuffed them into a minibus, without windows, and rushed off, in the car people rolled around like balls. A woman and a man were still sitting there, they were tied with something. The man was constantly throwing up because of fear, and the woman prayed loudly, God, God. Dogs were not allowed on one train, and they managed to get on a train to Uzhgorod. On the road, when she was driving, the passengers said that the dogs smell bad. Irina says: — I look at them and don’t know what to say, but I know that I smell bad, I also didn’t wash for 3 weeks, there was no water. Irina worries about her neighbors. She says that even when I doze, I think about them. There was a family left: a disabled mother, a guy with a girl and three children. The eldest is 13, the second is 10, Masha is 5 years old. There is no connection with them.
Lena with her husband and dog Feya left Mariupol on March 15th. First they stayed with relatives in Zaporozhye, then they moved to Uzhgorod to look for housing. They there settled in a school, 25 beds stood in one row, the Fairy was worried, barked at strangers and woke them up at night. The next day, her husband was called up for military service. Lena is leaving for the Czech Republic, but she really hopes to return to Ukrainian Mariupol.
During military service in Donbass, Alexander received a severe concussion, which led to disability. For several years he was recovering and lived in Bucha, was engaged in creativity, drawing. The military invasion of Russia in Bucha took place before his eyes. Alexander spent a month in the occupation and then left Bucha at the end of March when his apartment burned down.
Valentina’s childhood fell on the time of the war. She was born in 1941. She married a war invalid, who lost an arm and an eye as a result of hostilities. The woman learned about the horrors of war not from films and books. She could not imagine in a nightmare that this could happen again. She lived all her life in a village near Chernigov. Her son helped Valentina with a large household. They had a cozy house, which was bombed by Russian troops on March 9th. People hid for more than three weeks in a damp cellar without electricity or communications. During the bombing, fellow villagers were killed, neighboring huts burned down. Valentina’s son says: — I always thought that airstrikes are applied only to cities, but a plane bombed a rural farm in front of my eyes.
The village of the woman was surrounded by constant fire from the Russians, and there were positions of Ukrainian troops near the village.
People packed their belongings and walked along a country road until they were picked up by volunteers. Having driven a couple of kilometers, we saw burning fields on which military equipment was smoking. When we left the Chernihiv region, we found out that the bridge over the Desna, which had only been blown up.
They got to Zakarpatie by train. Driving past the mountains, the woman began to panic, Valentina saw the mountains for the first time in her life and felt herself in a confined space. The woman asked her son to take her to the steppe area. They left for Spain.
Victoria left a house with an old mother in Kharkov. The woman lived in the Cold Mountain area. When the war began, it turned out that there were food left in stock, but there was no cash, hygiene products, cat food and necessary medicines. . From the height of the Cold Mountain, the city is visible at a glance. From there, Vika observed which areas were being shelled. She waited for a moment and went shopping. There was always the possibility of an air raid.
It was impossible to predict. Vika came under fire more than once. It’s not scary to die quickly, it’s scary to remain a cripple. After waiting for the bombardment, she continued on her way. Along the way, there were packs of hungry dogs.
The woman’s house is divided into two parts. Mom lived in one, and Vika and the cat Murzilka lived in the other. In the first days of the war, Vika went down to the cellar, then laid a blanket two meters away from it. When danger appeared, the cat learned to go down into the cellar itself, clung to the floor and ran down. In the midst of complete silence, the roar of an aircraft suddenly appeared. Over time, Vika realized that she did not have time to jump into the basement during the air raid. When air raids began to occur every 15 minutes, the woman decided not to pay attention to them, turned on loud music and did household chores. The best cure for all ills is to do something. Vika’s mother was not afraid of shelling. In a way, she was happier with her deafness. She lay on one ear, covered the other with a pillow. Once there was heavy shooting near the house, the woman did not sleep at night, ran out into the street and looked at the night sky. I could not understand where and where the shells were flying. And then someone said that it was ours who defended the sky. The woman liked this version, and then when she heard scary sounds, she calmed herself down — they are protecting me, these are our boys shooting at the enemy. When Vika was not paid an advance, she was left without a livelihood. The woman decided to leave Kharkov. She packed her belongings, gave the cat valerian to drink, put it in a laundry basket and drove it to the station in a wheelbarrow. Since childhood, Victoria dreamed of getting to the Czech Republic. She headed to Prague, in search of work and a new life.
Alexander, together with his son and parents, lived in the Lugansk region in Popasna. On February 24, Alexander’s family went down to the basement to escape the shelling. They were left without communication, gas and electricity. Food was cooked on a fire, warmed up wrapped in blankets. On March 15, the man left the city and went to Zakorpatie to find a job and feed his family.
Antonina was born in the Kharkov region during the war. The strongest childhood memory is the fright from suddenly appearing soldiers making their way through the thickets of the forest. In February 2022, Antonina found herself at the epicenter of military events. In recent years, she had little interest in politics and the war broke into her life unexpectedly. The woman spent the night with a friend on Okruzhnaya, in the morning a friend called and asked: — What is going on with you? She looked out the window and saw a long line of military equipment. After that day, shelling and air raids began. Antonina hid in the basement for almost a month. After the night bombardment, the woman, together with her daughter and 12-year-old granddaughter, decided to flee Kharkov. In the morning they made their way to the station through burning houses, charred cars and gas stations. The woman had a small house with cats there. Antonina and her family are planning to travel to the Czech Republic.