Ukraine (VII): Portraits of Displacement
A collection of portraits and statements taken at the Polish-Ukrainian border, some in Krakow.
VITALIY, 36, Kostiantynivka (Donetsk Oblast)
“I arrived with daughters aged 9 and 15, and one son, aged 5. They arrived the night prior after over 20 hours on the road. They’re currently homeless. We need to find accommodation. Anywhere. Poland or elsewhere.”
How do you expect this will end?
“With the collapse of the regime in Russia.”
(Translated from Russian)
BRIAN NOON, 42, Connecticut (USA)
“I moved to Kyiv to study dance and the Russian language. I arrived on January 14th, 2021, in Kyiv, from Wilton, Connecticut.
During the first day of the war, I took a bus to Uman in central Ukraine, because I couldn't go west from Kyiv, so I went south on the only bus that would take me. Then another four-day bus ride to the Polish border where I sat on the exit seats. I didn't have a normal bus seat. I just sat on the steps of the coach bus, near the exit.
There was panic as everybody’s phones started to die. There was fighting over power outlets. There were abandoned vehicles on the roadside as people left to cross by foot. At multiple points, I was asked if I was ‘with Putin’ by men with machine guns.
But it was like a big party after crossing over into Poland.
On the first day of the invasion, I prayed alone at this empty Orthodox church in Kyiv. I just prayed. But I'm not religious.”
SAVA, 7, and SUSHA, 12, Kharkiv
OKSANA, 42, Boryslav (Lviv Oblast)
“I’m here with my four children - ages 17, 14, 11, and 3. My husband is also here, whose name is Vasil.”
VASIL, 43, Boryslav (Lviv Oblast)
How were you able to leave Ukraine?
“I had already moved to Poland, and I have been working here for 4 years and I had to transfer my family. But I think for a while, time will tell.”
Did your wife and kids just join you today?
“At the moment, today arrived.”
Is there anything you'd like to say?
“I'm sure it will end soon, but time will tell. I wish there was peace on earth and the kids were happy.”
DMITRY, 27, Kyiv
Did you come here with your wife and children?
“Me and my wife, but we have no children. We arrived today a couple of hours ago, crossed the border with Poland.”
As a young man, how were you able to leave Ukraine?
“Very expected question…I have permission to leave the country because I am disabled from childhood and I have been discharged from military duty.”
What's your plan from here?
“While at the moment we plan to visit with relatives for a day, after that we plan to go to Germany. We're saying we plan to go to Germany, and will try to equip life there, at least in the next year. We will rebuild our lives.”
What do you hope for?
“We hope that we will be able to set up life anew. We hope that soon we will be able to return to our house in Kyiv and bring home the European experience and the culture of Europe. And we will begin to live in a new way. Our immediate plans are to get back on our feet, and maybe can open our own small business in Germany. No bold or screaming statements.”
Is there anything that you need?
“For the first time since leaving, we have everything. As we settle down, we hope to continue to feel like people. And we are grateful to the countries of Europe for the help that they provide. It costs a lot and is very valuable. But if NATO closed the sky in Ukraine, then there would be no price for you.”
ANA and DIANA, 22, Zaporizhzhia
“We left Ukraine on March 16th. We will go to Warsaw, they found work and housing for us there.”
How do you hope this ends?
“It will end with the final victory of Ukraine.”
BOY WITH SIBLING, age unknown
ALINA, 23, Donetsk, and ALINA, 24, Brovary (Kyiv Oblast)
[ALINA, pictured right]: “I was born in Crimea, and left at the age of five. I went to Kyiv Oblast, to Brovary, and lived there almost all my life. From Brovary, I left for university in Kyiv with my best friend, who is now a refugee in Berlin.
At the beginning of the war, I packed a few pieces of clothes and left for my friend’s place. We were told to leave because there was bombing near Kyiv. We drove spontaneously, and it took 11 hours from Kyiv just to get to the next city. Normally, it's two hours. We spent two days at the border with a male friend who drove us, but he had to stay.
Right now, I have no plans. I spent a week in Lodz, but don't understand what to do now. I started to text friends to ask how they are. One of my friends, Nastya, knows a family in England. There have been a lot of spontaneous moments in this whole situation. I wanted to stay in Kyiv.
The other Alina and I don't even know each other originally. We met in a refugee center in Warsaw. But Richard, a man from England, flew to Warsaw to meet me and we discussed things. Now we want to go there together.
I'm sure it will be okay. The war will be quick, unlike in the Donbas. Only one month or two. We will have problems with economics, but not for so long. Many countries want to help us, and I know we will win, I'm sure. I’m not thinking about another way. We have no choice. We have a national spirit. We just don't give up. You have to read our national anthem.
ALINA [pictured left]: “On the second day of the war, in the evening, I went to Lviv with my mom because there was no shelter in Kyiv, where she had been living for six years. We couldn't relax due to the sirens. Every time you try to sleep, you have to wake up and go to a shelter. So, we decided to spend the first night in the metro. I wanted to leave, but my mom didn't.
It was scary on the train out of Kyiv because there was a lot of people and chaos. In Lviv, I met a friend at a train station spontaneously, and she wrote her friends to find a place for us. After Lviv, my mom went back to Kyiv and I continued to Warsaw, where I met Alina.
I don't have a plan. But I met Alina, and she has a place to stay in Warsaw. Alina has friends in England who are trying to sponsor us. We're trying to apply right now and then find work.”
UNACCOMPANIED BOY, age unknown