How does it feel to be a soldier on the frontline? Do fleeting memories of life events like a first kiss flood as artillery fires overhead? Or do trouble-free school days spark recollection in between offensives? Who are these heroes – both troops and civilians – living in the war zone holding the aggressor at bay? You will see their faces in the contemporary War and Peace – two photo albums produced by Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence.
An Idea is Born
The idea of creating these books occurred to the Ministry’s officials some time ago during business trips abroad. The international community – misled by Russian propaganda – knew next to nothing about the armed hostilities that had erupted in Ukraine’s eastern regions four years ago and continue today.
“The best way to tell a true story about our country is to show photos that capture the reality of life in the conflict-afflicted zone,” Colonel Victoria Kushnir, assistant to the Defence Minister and press secretary, says.
Both books are the joint effort of professional civilian photographers and military media experts, including Anatolii Stepanov, Alina Klimenko, and the famed Russian-born Sergei Loiko, the only foreign journalist who witnessed the 2014 Donetsk Airport siege.
“All of them were happy and eager to volunteer for this important social project,” Kushnir adds.
War No Comment is the title of the first volume. Short captions below images speak for themselves – “Consequences of Militants’ Firing on Mariinka Village”, “Night Combat at Butivka Mine”, and “Soldier Shooting With a Heavy Machine Gun”.
“This is a good example of quality photojournalism without retouching,” says Сolonel Vadym Kovaliov, editor-at-large in the Narodna Armiya (People’s Army) newspaper who also contributed to the project. His photos signified some crucial events like the liberation of Sloviansk, Kramatorsk, and Artemovsk by national forces in July 2014.
The cover of the sequel World We Defend is designed as camouflage with patterns of a rushnyk, a traditional embroidered towel. The book focuses on those Ukraine’s army fights for – children and retired people, and highlights a patriotic sentiment of the nation united to build a peaceful future in their homeland.
“While fighting for its sovereignty and territorial integrity, Ukraine protects the entire civilised world from aggression. Therefore, we want to let the world know what is truly going on in our country,” Kushnir says.
The books have been handed out to Defence Ministers in EU states, the US, Canada, NATO, as well as to Ukrainian embassies in various countries, the US European Command, heads of delegations at the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial Conference in Vancouver and other high-ranking authorities.
“Yale University students who came to Ukraine for the first time said the books gave them a lot of new information,” Major Iryna Makarchenko, head of the Strategic Communications Coordinating and Monitoring Section, says. “We also plan to present our volumes at the Invictus Games that will take place in Australia in late October.”
To download the photo album click here