About the human dimension of war.
About the phenomenon of getting used to the war and its consequences, when people outside Ukraine get tired of war-related content, and people in Ukraine are forced to get used to and adapt to the new terrible reality.
We are not extraordinary
41 years old
Mechanical engineer and musician. Superfinalist of the musical talent show "X-Factor" (Ukrainian version of British project "The X Factor").
Before the war he taught children music lessons, now he has lost his job, because all students were evacuated.
He played in a music band in Turkey. On New year’s day he came back home, had some rest and intended to return to work, but the war began. Fellow musicians ask him to return to Turkey, but he refuses - he says that even before the war he felt disgust for the Russians tourists, many of whom are usually drunk at discos, and musicians have to play their common repertoire, their pop. Bogdan does not want to play for these tourists, especially now, and he decided to stay and help people in Ukraine.
19 years old
He is studying to be an artist-restorer and is eager to rebuild Ukraine after the war, because many museums and cultural heritage sites have been destroyed in the country’s museums.
In her free time the girl makes candies and bars from nuts. She created her own brand "Shell". She buys and grows products for her brand in her hometown of Berdychiv. Berdychiv is a town with a famous Jewish history. There in her parents’ vegetable garden Anna grows peanuts. When the year is fruitful, Anna has two bags of peanuts for her production.
Until February 24, Anna never felt that there would be a war. She did not follow the news. He says she thought mainly about self-development, education, parents, animals. "Now I'm a little overwhelmed, I'm always scared. It's scary to stay at home alone because we have the war neither with the army nor with people – they are not people. The soul is torn, but I don't want to leave the country".
34 years old
Entrepreneur. He is an English and Ukrainian philologist by education.
The most vivid memory before the war was the birth of his son. Yevgen had been present at the birth for 12 hours and then walked out for a minute for tea. When he returned, the nurse said: "You have got a son, you can not go in there". But then he was let in, and he cut the umbilical cord.
Before the war Yevgen created his business called "Don't panic recruiting agency". 11 people work with him. When the war began, they started volunteer projects. The agency helps modern Ukrainian IT developers find work, support their family and the country's economy. The agency centralizes all courses, vacancies, and projects for them. There are 7.5 thousand people in its Telegram channel now.
32 years old
Dancer, cultural figure.
Before the war he studied dance in Germany, worked at the Fantissima Theater. He returned to Ukraine. By last year he had staged two performances in Ukraine – the musical "Romeo and Juliet" and the avant-garde production based on the play "Maids" by Jean Genet.
He believes that by means of culture country can be made holistic, so that no one would even think to divide it.
27 years old
He is an electrical engineer by education. A founder of the public organization "Playa" engaged in cultural projects. Now in their office there is a children's exhibition of posters against the war.
The tattoos on Volodymyr's body depict a forest, animals, wind. He says these are talismans that protect his inner world. Before the war Vladimir had a new tattoo – Hutsul with trembita. And when the videos of Ukrainian fighters marching with javelins appeared on Ukrainian television – like hutsuls with trembits – this tattoo acquired a new meaning for him. Volodymyr is sure, after the victory in Ukraine everything will be much better.
40 years old
Social worker of one of the occupied cities in the south of Ukraine.
"We work according to the current legislation of Ukraine, and this is official. However, for the occupiers and their "administration" - underground. We try to act the way they will know about our activities as late as possible". Every day Dmytro has to figure out how to provide women, children, and elderly people living in the occupation, with food, medicine, hygiene, and water.
On the third day of the war, Dmytro and his wife wrote on both hands of their 5-year-old son phone numbers of relatives, his name and surname, the same was written in a note and put in the child’s pocket. For the next few weeks he went to work every morning and did not know if he would see his son and wife again.
In early April his wife and child managed to leave the occupation. Dmytro followed them to the very checkpoint on the way out of town to make sure they could leave. He says it was the worst day of his life.
"We have been working in the occupation for more than two months, but the situation is not clear yet: who is afraid much. It seems, these occupiers are afraid of us more than we are afraid of them. And we will definitely win, because I still have to teach my son to ride a bicycle which he was given for his birthday in February”.
22 years old
Confectioner. She has been working as a confectioner since she was 15, and in 8 years she has passed her way from assistant confectioner to pastry chef. Before the war, she developed author's menus for coffee shops and restaurants.
After February 24, he has been continuing to cook, but now for refugees, territorial defense fighters, and volunteers. Volunteer kitchen is equipped in a school canteen. There are 5-10 people working constantly. They start working from morning till 8 pm, then the curfew begins.
Together with volunteers Nastya tries to find first aid kits, helmets, knee pads, bulletproof vests for her brother and his comrades-in-arms. Nastya's brother fought in the anti-terrorist
36 years old
She has got two sons, aged 10 and 9.
A citizen of Moldova, she has a residence permit in Ukraine. In Moldova she has got her own land plot and two houses from parents. But she knew from childhood that she would live in Ukraine because she has Ukrainian roots.
Journalist by education. Chairman of a public organization, director of the festival and speleological amateur. Until 2014, she had explored caves in the Crimea, but after the Russian occupation she did not go there.
The last trip to the caves was forced. When shelling and bombing of cities began across the country, Olexandra and her children went to the village. They lived in the evacuation for 2 weeks and every day went to a local cave to help speleologists who were working there. This cave has a name "Optimistic".
Arthur and Arseniy
Two brothers (10 and 8 years old)
The boys like living in Kherson. They live on the third floor of a five-story building in a double-room apartment. At home they have three aquariums, a cat, two parrots and a horizontal bar.
The elder brother likes drawing and playing computer games, he says it calms him down and distracts. And the younger one constantly does press-ups and sit-ups, he wants to be a football player and so he trains hard.
In the first weeks of the war they hid in the basement. Then the parents decided it was not safe enough there, and now everyone goes to the corridor during explosions.
The brothers do not want to leave the occupied city, but their parents are afraid for them and will be trying to get out of the occupation which has been going on for three months.
At the moment all roads out of the Kherson region are blocked by the Russian military. The region is constantly in battle, there has not been a single humanitarian corridor for now.
35 years old
Artist from Kharkiv.
"My husband has been following the news since December 2021, so we prepared go-bags in advance. But until the very end we did not believe the war could break out. Everyone in the city worked, there were many plans and dreams. But on the morning of February 24, when we heard the explosions, we grabbed bags, cats and met with my husband's mother - she lived in the area where the shelling began”.
Now Victoria lives in Dnipro where she and her family were adopted by almost strangers for a few days... but they've been living there for the second month. They all live in a big apartment that is similar to a hostel. Volunteers from other cities often stay there; two American reporters lived there for a long time. Victoria says they all are like a big family.
46 years old
Stand-up comedian, performer. He has a collection of artworks by famous artists on his body, one of which is his autobiography.
The war caught Yuriy in Kharkiv. At 6 o'clock his brother, with whom Yuriy had not communicated for the previous 2 years, phoned him. At that moment he realized that the worst predictions had come true - the war began. When Yuriy's family decided to leave the city, the transport was no longer running and they didn’t have their own car. They walked early in the morning, when it was still dark, for more than three hours through the snowy forest to get to the nearest station.
Yuriy still hopes that his family will not have to go any further, and they will be able to return home.
50 years old
Public leader. The last project before the war was an information campaign against the historical fake stories about the south of Ukraine spread by Russia and based on President Putin’s words, who says these are "originally Russian lands", although Russia has always been an invader for Ukraine - both in the 18th century and nowadays.
On February 24, she was forced to leave her city due to its occupation by Russian militaries who immediately began hunting pro-Ukrainian activists. The first three weeks she lived in the village near the city. Due to constant shelling, she was forced to evacuate further. In two days the house she had left was searched by Russian troops. Elena was glad that the people who sheltered her, managed to avoid the threat due to hiding pro-Ukrainian activists. Now this village is almost completely destroyed.
29 years old
Educational manager at Beetroot Academy, a Swedish-Ukrainian IT school.
From the beginning of the war, Oleg and his friends made Molotov cocktails and delivered them to checkpoints. Then he organized the production of bulletproof vests; they make covers (plates), find and buy metal plates in Ukraine and abroad. To purchase necessary materials, they raise money and involve local patrons. Currently, there are 14 volunteers in Oleg's team working on drawing resources.
Since the beginning of the war, about 700 bulletproof vests have been manufactured and handed over to the Ukrainian Armed Forces and Territorial Defense Forces. However, there are many more orders - more than 1,000 for now.
36 years old
Before the war he worked in the IT sphere as a programmer. He has wife and three sons. They lived in a two-room apartment in Mykolaiv, but children grew up, and a year ago Semen bought a house and they moved to Irpin, which was cozy and very comfortable place to live near Kyiv. His friends were a little jealous of him – a wood was seen right behind his house.
When the shelling started, he managed to take his wife and children to Kyiv, and later sent them to his brother to Italy. He stayed in Ukraine and joined the territorial defense forces. His house in Irpin was completely destroyed by Russian soldiers.
27 years old
Before the war, Yegor worked at the Kharkiv cemetery №14. Yegor's hobby was collecting life stories of unremarkable people. At the beginning of the war he wrote 8 notebooks.
In the first days of the war he could not come to his senses for a long time. On March 10, he became a volunteer at animal.rescue.kharkiv, an animal rescue organization.
31 years old
Playwright, film critic.
Until February 24, he worked in a large advertising agency in Kyiv as a creative copywriter. He wrote a play where the main character’s prototype was an American spree killer Andrew Cunanan. Two weeks before the war Arthur had planned a vacation in Greece.
From the beginning of the war he was in occupied Kherson. He lost his job, became depressed, but he was able to overcome this. During the occupation he wrote a semi-documentary play. On the 45th day he managed to evacuate to Lviv. He is currently trying to overcome survivor syndrome. He is looking for lost meanings and a new house because his old house is gone one way or another.
41 years old
Artist. Before the war he taught at the academy at the department of art practices. He was a co-curator of the festival of audiovisual art in Lviv, created a 4-channel interactive installation "Saint Sebastian".
When the war started, 13 out of 40 students left Ukraine, but 11 students arrived from Kharkiv. His wife and young son (5 years old) left Ukraine on the second day of the full-scale invasion.
Mykhailo says he feels lonely and sad, and these feelings are very painful. But the worst thing is that you are getting used to this state…
44 years old
Facilitator, youth coach. On February 24, at 7 am, she was to go to Lutsk to conduct a training on digital literacy for communities. But in the morning her driver called and canceled the trip. From the first days of the war, Sviatoslava has been helping refugees. She meets them at stations, accompanies them to places where they can stay the night and have food, and she helps to recover lost documents. Every day her volunteer headquarters received more than 400 refugees. For two months she worked night shifts, from 8 am to 8 pm. During the day volunteers received and distributed humanitarian aid.
She remembered one family the most – grandmother, mother and four girls. They had with them animals - cats, chinchillas and a domestic rat. The mother was very intelligent and shy, she was afraid to ask for something once again. They were very surprised when the volunteers offered to buy them food for animals. One of the girls gave Svyatoslava a homemade doll goodbye. The only toy the child had and this toy she had taken with her from home... Sviatoslava says it is the most valuable gift, the mascot she will keep after the victory.
34 years old
Mountaineering instructor. Educated physicist-theorist. He lives in Lviv.
He has been mountaineering for more than 15 years. In February 2022, he was with a Ukrainian group in Africa. On February 23, they climbed to the top of Kilimanjaro, and when they descended to the camp, they saw the news about Ukraine. They had return tickets for flight Zanzibar-Kyiv but all flights were immediately canceled. Ivan flew to Krakow with transfers - 5 planes, 57 hours of travel.
After returning to Ukraine, together with familiars, he organized delivery corridors for humanitarian goods, thermal imagers, and ammunition from Europe. Friends from Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany collect required things, and they organize the logistics of delivery. From the beginning of the war there were huge queues on the border with Poland, and the boys sent cars, and they returned across the border on foot and carried part of the load. Ivan helps to drive ambulances to Ukraine - he says that he lives behind the wheel.
33 years old
Actor and musician.
Before the war he was engaged in art in Kharkov, building a common happiness and future with his wife.
On February 24, he heard the first explosion. They hesitated for another day whether to leave the city, but in the end they decided to evacuate to the west of Ukraine. They were moving from one city to another for a whole month. Now Denis is in Lviv, his wife has gone abroad. He helps volunteer organizations to set up a call center to evacuate people from Kharkiv.
30 years old
A resident of the Ukrainian city of Donetsk. She went out to the first spontaneous demonstrations in support of Ukraine. At that time she did not fully understand what the "Russian World" was, but she knew that she did not want to live under the flag of a neighboring aggressor state.
In June 2014, Tetiana moved to Kyiv, distanced herself from politics, got isolated, lost her sense of home, peace and safety. She came to Donetsk several times a year to visit mother and grandmother who did not want to go anywhere, and was waiting for peace... she has not waited for it. On February 24, 2022, she woke up from her cat's meowing and heard the sounds of explosions.
On the 24th of February she was driving through Irpin, Bucha and Gostomel and heard the earth trembling from explosions.
Now Tetiana is in Lviv. She says she is no longer crying because she has run out of tears. Her house was taken from her for the second time. She also says she has never wanted children before, but now she wants - she wants her children to bring love for Ukraine and hatred for those who try to destroy the country.
26 years old
Taxi driver. Married, has two children, 5 and 2 years old. Before the war he worked in his own car in a taxi service. After the war had approached his city, he took his wife and children to Western Ukraine, and returned to help people get out of the occupation.
In the city where Victor lives, there have never been “green corridors” and people try to leave on their own, at their own risk. To reach a safe territory, Victor overcomes about 30 checkpoints set up by Russian occupiers. At almost every checkpoint men are stripped to underpants, examined for injuries and weapon usage tracks, and cars are searched. Each time Victor returns to the occupied city, he carries medicine – something that is catastrophically lacking. Several times a load of medications was taken from him at the Russian military checkpoints, once it was humanitarian aid from Europe worth 5 thousand euros.
The road he used to drive people out, has been recently blocked and mined. However, he says he will be looking for a new way and driving as much as it is necessary.
35 years old
Photographer from the city of Mykolayiv.
Until February 24, he lived a bright and rich life – exhibitions, traveling, art residencies. In April 2022 Artem planned his first personal exhibition in Kharkiv. After February 24, 2022 he has taken his family and family friends to a village in the Odessa region, away from the shelling that occurs in Mykolayiv almost every day.
First months Artem lived with only wish of victory and hope that his next trip will be way home.
Then he resumed creative work in order to tell about the war and people’s feelings.
On November 14, 2022, Artem became a winner of the Global Peace Photo Award 2022 for the series of photos "The Giant". The ceremony took place in the parliament of Austria. Artem got the Alfred Fried Peace Medal.
*Alfred Fried – Austrian journalist, one of the pioneers of the anti-war movement in Europe, laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1911.
51 years old
Designer. Works for NGOs and Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union. Since 2014 he has created many books, websites, and posters about Russia's military aggression against Ukraine, annexation of the Crimea, war crimes against civilians in the east of the country.
With the beginning of a new stage of Russia's military aggression nothing has changed in his work. But he was forced to evacuate. He lost his house. He took with him only a camera, archives of materials for work, and two guinea pigs.
23 years old
Artist. Since childhood she could reveal herself only through drawing. In any incomprehensible or stressful situation she began drawing to give emotions and feelings into paper.
Before the war Marina tried to avoid difficult themes because there are so many negative things in the real world. After February 24, Marina did not paint for the whole month. Together with other volunteers she made smoke bombs and Molotov cocktails. When the information appeared about putting labels on the roofs of residential buildings to correct air strikes and it was necessary to neutralize them, Marina and her friends climbed onto the roof of her 9-storey house where they found a mark. For covering it she gave her wooden tablet that she usually used for painting. And the material used to be a background for still lifes, was cut for Molotov cocktails.
46 years old
Four years ago he moved with his family from Kharkiv to Poland, where he currently works at the University of Visual Arts. He says that at the beginning of the war he felt something like paralysis. The first two weeks he only had time to inform his mother about the air danger and give the news to the basement in Kharkiv where his mother was hiding; he was almost the only channel of communication for her and other people, who were hiding from shelling and bombing.
Now he turned his art studio into a shelter for refugees. Oleksiy raises funds to help Kharkiv artists who remain in the city or plan to evacuate. He is constantly involved in European protests against the war started by Russia.
21 years old
Before the war he studied to become a locksmith and worked with his father at the farm; they grew vegetables. He was well versed in technology, his father trusted him with the modern mini-tractor that the family had bought a year before. He didn’t think about girls that time; he said, "First I have to get on my feet".
With the beginning of the war, the family did not plan to evacuate anywhere, they did not want to leave a big household. In April they intended to start sowing. They did not want to leave even when a bomber flew across the fields over them at night and dropped eight bombs that remained five-meter craters. The family decided to evacuate when 14 hectares of their fields were mined by the Russian occupiers.
37 years old
Before the war she taught children English.
After February 24, her students were evacuated from Kherson occupied by Russian troops. Many of them went to European countries. Now students are writing letters of thanks to Zhanna, because their level of English allowed them to settle in prestigious schools and continue their studies.
Zhanna stayed in occupied Kherson. She can't leave her cats, she has eight ones. Every day she looks for some food for them. There is a lack of food in the city even for people. There are no humanitarian corridors for more than two months.
45 years old
He is married and has a 10-month-old daughter, Anya. He recently managed to evacuate his family from Ukrainian Kherson occupied by Russians, to the rear. At all checkpoints little Anya smiled at the Ukrainian militaries and waved to them.
Specialist in automation of accounting and business management, as well as accounting and auditing. In Kherson he created his own company, which has been successfully run for 22 years. After February 24, the workers tried to leave Kherson occupied by Russian troops. One employee left through the Crimea, and there is still no news from him. Pavlo is currently studying Western and Ukrainian software to replace Russian one by means of it.
30 years old
Actress, a native of Kyiv. She has been working at a theater in Lviv for 10 years.
She faced a full-scale invasion on the train traveling from Lviv to Kyiv. She learned about the first explosions from a neighbor in the compartment. The first two weeks of the war she was in Gostomel, hiding with her mother and uncle from shelling in the cellar. She saw the corpses of occupiers and civilians. She realized that she really wanted to live and promised herself to take care of the quality of her life. She thought she would never get out of Gostomel, but managed to evacuate with her mother and her dog. Anastasia’s uncle stayed in Gostomel and survived.
Now Anastasia makes camouflage nets in Lviv together with other volunteers.
32 years old
System analyst, video operator.
The last few years of his life in Kharkiv were the happiest for him. He made many friends, did what he liked, and became part of the team with which he founded the video production company “Khutko Productions”. Shortly before the war he had fallen in love.
Because of the Russian invasion he was forced to move to Lviv where he lives with friends and helps in Kharkiv volunteer headquarters. His beloved girl was evacuated abroad. He says that because of the war he started to value life much more: simple things that were common earlier seem incredible now. He began to see more beauty in people, their actions and support for each other.
After the victory he is eager to return to Kharkiv.
38 years old
A professional lawyer. Before the 24 of February had a private legal practice. He was also an assistant to a deputy of the Kherson city council. In addition, he is a poet and actor of theatrical laboratory “18+”.
First days of war Kostyantyn spent searching for food supply for his 4-year old daughter Mira. The first week his family spent in a bomb shelter, then they did not leave their neighborhood. After two months Kostyantyn decided to evacuate his family.
They managed to leave the city only on the third attempt. During Konstantin's last try russian soldiers forced him to undress and explain the meaning of his tattoos, especially the “Om” sign. "This is an ancient Indian symbol," - said Konstantin. "The fascist swastika also came from India!" - they answered.
Now Kostyantyn's family is in Bulgaria, and he continues his legal practice in Lviv. 80% of his clients are people from the occupied Kherson. Also he organizes actions to support the fighter of the Territorial Defense Forces of Kherson Andrij Gorshkov, who was kidnapped by the occupants and accused of organizing the kidnapping of Natalya Poklonska - infamous collaborator, former prosecutor from occupied Crimea. His mother has not heard anything of her son since March 2022.
49 years old
Lecturer of Kherson State University, teaching experience 30 years.
February 24, teaching went on-line in Kherson, but after COVID-pandemic it didn’t bring any significant stress. Instead all attention was paid to University valuables being evacuated. In such a way they were able to live to see the summer, conducted exams, handed Bachelor diplomas. In order to get them in person graduates were forced to go to Kryvyi Rih i.e. to evacuate themselves from the occupied Kherson.
Volodymyr himself left the occupied city only in September. He started the new academic year in Ivano-Frankivsk where the University went to. Through all the check points he took the white snake, Sam by name, the pet of his daughter who studies in Lviv. When russian militaries asked: “What is this?” he proudly said: “It is a snake. We don´t leave our fellows!”.
While in occupation, Volodmyr got acquainted with the woman he later fell in love. They happened to meet in a Telegram Channel where Kherson residents reported russian military march. Once she said: “I will cook borscht to the one who will give a good target!”. Now they are living together in a dormitory in Ivano-Frankivsk and waiting for Kherson to be liberated.
63 years old
The Vice-President of the National Checkers Federation of Ukraine and Regional Checkers Federation of Ivano-Frankivsk. He is a wee bit journalist and photographer. In 2014 when after the Maidan security agencies were no longer trusted he patrolled the city to maintain public safety.
Before February 24, 2022 members of the Regional Checkers Federation of Ivano-Frankivsk were able to visit Kherson in order to take part in competitions and to come back on February, 22. Starting from February 24, the Federation carries on charity tournaments in support of the AFU, for example, a simultaneous display of famous sportsmen who are staying as temporary displaced persons in the city at the moment. Bohdan says that the main prerequisite of such open tournaments in public space is being able to shelter in case of air raid alert. “It is quiet at our place, but sometimes moskals have a whim to launch something and it is a sheer lottery- they fire rockets into peaceful cities because they are unable to do anything”.
43 years old
Up to February 24, he worked as a manager in a charity fond in Kherson. He lived 7 months in the occupied city, and all that time he was helping families with kids and taking care of his old parents and in-laws. His wife and two daughters were able to go to Germany, but Kostiantyn himself decided to stay and help his homelanders and his country. But after the pseudo-referendum in Kherson being held, he decided to leave for the territory under the Ukrainian control.
He took his cat with him altogether with 3 unacquainted persons free of charge. They were two old women and a man with disability. While at night halt in a village russians came and forbade people to stay there. To go anywhere at the curfew time was certain death that`s why Kostiantyn just put his car at a fence of some house behind a bush and turned off the lights. So were they sitting all night long – mousy – without any light so that nobody could get a sight of them. And in the morning russians didn`t let the column of busses go, only cars could go through, and Kostiantyn headed to the gray zone without knowing the way.
After being 7 months in the occupied city he couldn`t get used to surfing Internet without VPN and paying by a credit card in stores.
Now Kostiantyn helps Kherson Hub in Ivano-Frankivsk. His wife desperately seeks to go back to Ukraine, to their Kherson.
45 years old
Until February 24, Andriy worked in the Kherson region in the museum sphere. He was engaged in research and historical reconstruction of the Ukrainian Cossack era. People of Kherson couldn’t imagine cultural events without participation of Andriy in a Cossack outfit, which was carefully assembled from clothes and details, reconstructed as accurately as possible and with great love. Of course, Andriy's hairstyle was a Cossack forelock (long strand of hair on a shaved head). Andriy rediscovered the ancient musical instrument "bugay" for the people of Kherson. Also he proved that 300 years ago the Cossacks drank coffee already, having adopted this drink from the Crimeans.
During the occupation, Andriy became unemployed. He worked on his own homestead and reconstructed items from the Sarmatian period for future cultural events. His "branded" Cossack forelock had to be cut off for safety reasons.
He left the occupation on August 2, travelled by bus to Zaporizhzhia. Now he works for the museum in Kyiv. He continues to do what he loves – scientific work and reconstruction of historical objects for museum classes.