Affected by the war: children

Serie «Affected by the war» is dedicated to ordinary people whose daily lives have changed since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of my country by the Russian Federation on 24th of February, 2022. A significant part of this project is about children who are now forced to spend their time in a completely different way than we are used to seeing children in photographs.
I see them in the refugee center: scared, pale and dirty, without smiles, hungry and unable to eat normal food due to stomach disorders and prolonged living in basements.
I see them in the bomb shelters: with other children, for safety reasons, they gather here to watch cartoons or listen to information about what mines are out there and what to do if they see them.
I see them in training: now they are holding real weapons and trying on heavy body armor.
I see them against the backdrop of destroyed and burned houses: the houses are black from the fires, but their bicycles and rollerblades are still pink.
I see them on holidays: they hold their drawings in their hands, but there is no sun or blue sky, it says «My father is in captivity».
I see them on buses that will soon go abroad: they are not going on vacation or studying, they are fleeing their homeland in fear of somewhere permanent or temporary where they can find a place to live, because they have nothing left here.

A girl rides a bike past a damaged residential building because of a missile attack by Russian troops on August 4, 2022 in Irpin, Ukraine. One of the first massive shelling during the full-scale invasion of Russian troops was in Kyiv Oblast: Irpin, Borodianka, Hostomel and Bucha. These cities suffered the greatest destruction of civilian buildings at the beginning of the full-scale invasion.

A woman holds a baby in her arms at the refugee hub on April 4, 2022 in aporizhzhia, Ukraine. Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion into Ukraine by Russian troops and the occupation of several Ukrainian regions Zaporizhzhia became the closest unoccupied city to many regions from where people came after being under occupation. A large refugee hub was created in the city, which receives and registers refugees, provides free medical, psychological assistance, necessary things, clothes, hygiene products, helps with shelter or transfer to other regions of Ukraine or abroad.

A little boy is sitting in a car with a broken windshield at the refugee hub on May 2, 2022 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. Approximately one in three cars leaving the occupied cities has traces of war, like this one with shrapnel marks on the windshield.

A girl hugs her dog at the refugee hub on April 4, 2022 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. Many people that came to Zaporizhzhia from occupied territories had their animals with them: most of the animals were in a terrible condition — they are scared, hungry, with health problems. The refugee hub always had food for animals, medicines and cardboard carriers for their more comfortable transportation further.

A little boy is standing in a bus at the refugee center between his parents trying to choose a proposed toy: a rattle or a gun on March 31, 2022 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine.

A little girl is seating in the refugee center holding a toy on March 18, 2022 in Zaporizhzhia. Ukraine.

Children watch cartoons in a bomb shelter on December 18, 2022 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Russian troops in Ukraine, schools, kindergartens and other entertainment and educational institutions for children in the frontline cities have been mostly suspended. With the help of volunteers and charitable organizations, events for children are periodically held in bomb shelters for safety reasons.

A man holds a child in his arms in a crowd at a train station on March 5, 2022 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion into Ukraine by Russian troops Zaporizhzhia like other frontline cities began to give people free evacuation trains in order mother with children could leave the city and go to more quiet ares of Ukraine or abroad. Those days there were thousands of people on railways. Men saw their families off, not understanding and not knowing whether they would ever see them again.

Refugees at the city sircus on March 9, 2022 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion into Ukraine by Russian troops and the occupation of several Ukrainian regions Zaporizhzhia became the closest unoccupied city to many regions from where people came after being under occupation. Due to the big amount of refugees that went through the city shelters were created in every possible places. The city circus was the temporary shelter too: sleeping blankets were spread out in the arena and the wardrobe was filled with clothes and shoes that volunteers and caring residents of the city brought to meet the new refugees.

A boy practices to disassemble and reassemble Kalashnikov rifle on April 12, 2022 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. Many civilians that live in Zaporizhzhia only 30 km from the frontline among them are women and even children are willing to protect themselves and their families visiting courses on tactical training and shooting existing in the arsenal of both countries Kalashnikov rifle.

A daughter of Ukrainian soldier captured by Russia holds a banner with inscription ‘My dad, my hero. Still in captivity’ during an action in support of Ukrainian prisoners of war on December 17, 2023 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. The defenders of Azovstal have been in Russian captivity for twenty months. The action ‘Don’t be silent! Captivity Kills’ holds in support of Ukrainian prisoners of war from the Mariupol garrison, who have been held captive by Russia for two years. Today about 100 people take part in the protest, including relatives and friends of the POWs from Zaporizhzhia units 3029 and 3033, Azov, Mariupol unit 3057, as well as residents of Mariupol who managed to leave the occupied city and other local citizens.

A boy is posing in front of heavily damaged residential building where his apartment survived, but now it is not habitable at all on October 11, 2022 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. The missile hit this building on October 9 at 2.00 am, as a result of which 1 block of flats was completely destroyed, and 2 more need to be demolished due to cracks in the walls and complete unsuitability for habitation, 14 people were killed.

Family with children with medical disorders at the evacuation bus to Europe at the refugee hub on April 27, 2022 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. Zaporizhzhia gladly took part in the program of evacuation of the most vulnerable segments of the population to Europe: women, children and elderly men. 140 people were evacuated from Zaporizhzhia to Germany during April 2022.

A boy wearing a bulletproof vest and helmet holds a weapon during personal combat equipment and weapons lecture for civilians by military training instructors of non-governmental organization «Plast» together with soldiers of Armed Forces of Ukraine on July 12, 2023 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine.

Children paint shell casings during a master class «Autumn Colors» by artist Larysa Yermak-Dolhova in a shelter at a local school on October 31, 2023 in Zaporizhzhia,Ukraine. The shell casings will be sold at a charity auction to raise funds for the purchase of fabric for making camouflage nets for the military.

A rescuer conducts mine safety lesson for children in a bomb shelter on March 31, 2023 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. Currently, according to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, more than 30 million hectares of Ukrainian territory have been mined by Russian troops. That requires knowledge on the part of the civilians, in particular children, regarding the basic rules of behavior and actions in case of detection of mines and other explosive devices. For this purpose, specialists of the State Emergency Service conducted a mine safety lesson for children, talking about the types of explosive devices, the algorithm of actions when they are detected, taught them how to use a fire extinguisher and methods of self-control in cases of panic.

A child lies on a bed at a bomb shelter during air-raid siren on January 17, 2023 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine.