Facts: Ukrainian war archive

The exhibition “Invasion” is on display at the Center for Photography from 18 February. A total of 180 photographs by photographers Roman Bordun, Lisa Bukrejeva, Julia Kojetova, Jana Kononova, Sasja Kurmaz, Vladyslav Musijenko, Vyatjeslav Ratinskyj, Serhij Polezjaka and Jana Sidashj are included.

On the anniversary of the war comes the panel discussion “A year of war – the role of culture in conflict”.

Ukrainian Warchive was founded by Emine Zijatdinova, Kateryna Sergatskova, Jevhen Safonov and Sweden-based Misha Pedan.

They collect and archive photographs taken in Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale war. The images are archived in several formats so that they are also searchable online. Ukrainian photographers can receive financial grants to be able to carry out photographic projects.

The project is supported by the Swedish Institute and the Hasselblad Foundation.

“Does the rest of the world see what we see?” asks Ukrainian photographer Lisa Bukrejeva, who archives news from wartime Ukraine in the project “Do not look at pain of others”. She is one of nine photographers whose work is now shown in the exhibition “Invasion” at the Center for Photography in Stockholm. All of the participants work from Ukraine.

The 28-year-old photographer Jana Sidasj is one of them. From her home in Lviv, she says that the decision to stay after the invasion felt obvious. She wanted to contribute to the fight in any way she could.

— I never thought I would work as a war photographer, and it’s not something I ever wanted to be. But that is my reality now, she notes.

In the first days after the invasion, she went to the border with Poland where thousands tried to leave the country. Many children and the elderly had made it there with enormous effort, says Jana Sidasj, who was shocked by what she witnessed.

— I just cried and couldn’t take pictures, I couldn’t do anything at all. Then I realized “Jana, your tears don’t help anyone, but your camera can help”. So I tried to push my feelings aside and do what I could, she says bitterly.

Ukrainian perspective

Overall, the photographs in the exhibition give a good insight into how Ukrainians experience the invasion. That’s the opinion of Emine Zijatdinova, one of the four photographers who founded Ukrainian Warchive. The initiative was created to spread Ukrainian perspectives on the war, as memory and history play a crucial role in Russian propaganda.

— History is distorted, which also happened under Soviet rule and in the Russian Empire. So we feel it is very important to document what happens when it happens, says Emine Zijatdinova from her current home in England.

She believes that many people become numb after a year of war news.

— But the suffering of the civilian population is enormous and it is important to continue talking about the war in all ways and in all formats.

Jana Sidasj thinks so too. Even though she has witnessed many horrors during her many trips around Ukraine, she tries to remind herself that it is her job.

— When I get home, I have difficult feelings, and don’t want to talk to anyone at all on the first day. It helps me stay – not positive – but normal. I need to have a day where I just think about what I saw.

“Innocent Civilians”

Jana Sidasj focuses on the people who stay. She goes to villages that have been occupied and asks those she meets to write down an early memory from the war. Because what could be more important than people, she wonders rhetorically.

— These are innocent civilians who have no power to defend themselves.

19-year-old Bogdan was one of those she met. He told about when the Russian tanks rolled into his village in the Kharkiv region. One of his friends worked for the Ukrainian security service, and every morning Bogdan mapped the Russians’ military equipment.

— He hid in a window because it was very dangerous. Then he notified his friend, and every night he burned the paper so that there would be no evidence, says Jana Sidasj, smiling at the memory of the 19-year-old boy who at first did not want to write down his memory, because he “had such an ugly writing”.

Bogdan poses for a portrait in recaptured Grushivka in Kharkiv Oblast.
“The photographs are about us all being human. When we think of war, we often think of armies, soldiers and weapons — but the pictures I want to show are about people living with the war. After all, those people show hope, love and warmth, which is so important in these dark days, says Jana Sidasj. Press picture.

An important drop

Emine Zijatdinova reminds that the photographers risk their lives to tell about the war. Jana Sidasj had many plans for the future, but it is not something she can afford anymore. She lives in the present and just wants to continue documenting what is going on in Ukraine. Thinking about the future is difficult for all Ukrainians, says Emine Zijatdinova.

— But what we hope for is that global solidarity can help create peace in Ukraine. I’m from Crimea myself and I’m waiting for the day when Crimea can come home, she says and falls silent with emotion.

A photo exhibition might just be a drop in the ocean, she says.

— But it is an important drop. It’s important to reach different types of audiences to tell what’s going on, because the Russian disinformation is so strong. Before we said “it’s just propaganda”. But that propaganda kills people.

Russian soldiers at a post office send items looted in Ukraine, in April 2022. From Lisa Bukrejeva’s project “Do not look at pain of others” where the artist archived images from the news. Press photo.

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Deborah Acker

I write epic fantasy; self-published via KDP. Devoted dog mom to my 10 yr old GSD, Shadow! DM not a priority; slow response at best #amwriting #author.

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