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Russia’s invasion 1 year on: Portraits from the War in Ukraine

  • Published

    23 February 2023
  • Written by

    Jennifer Venis
“When this day came, everything went upside down.”

When war came to Ukraine on 24 February 2022, Makarii was asleep. Iliena was on her way to work. Liiana woke up to a call from her friend, and 10 minutes later, she heard the first explosion. They would all soon be forced to flee their homes and their country, as shelling shattered Ukraine’s cities and caused catastrophic loss of life.

One year on, the war continues to devastate Ukraine. But in the midst of the horror of this conflict are local peacebuilders and humanitarians supporting those affected, and refugees, building temporary lives elsewhere but ever determined to return home.

Now, we have the honour of sharing some of their stories with you.

Today, we are launching Portraits from the War in Ukraine – an article and 7-part series on our sister platform, Peace Insight.

Over the first six months of the war, our Local Peacebuilding Expert from Ukraine, Olga Konstantinova, and videographer Julien Couson, conducted a series of interviews with individuals affected by and responding to the war.

Through these portraits, we meet Makarii, Iliena and Liiana – three Ukrainians displaced by the war, and bear witness to their determination as they resiliently build their lives in temporary homes. We also meet two NGOs remaining in Ukraine, working tirelessly to organise aid and support within the country, despite the life-threatening situation they face. Beyond Ukraine’s borders, we get a glimpse into the efforts of international humanitarian workers, Elena and Monika, going to great lengths to provide support and safety to refugees, as well as sending resources to those that remain in Ukraine.

These moving interviews are a reminder of the power of human kindness. Take a look now:

To mark the anniversary, Olga shared some reflections with us:
“Since 24 February 2022 it was such a painful and horrific time for all Ukrainians, but also the time when all the world and Ukrainians united together around the fight for freedom, democracy in Ukraine and against Russian aggression. […]

For the anniversary of the full-scale invasion, many Ukrainians feel scared, anxious and some of them feel tired as they were forced to live out of their homes since February 2022. Others plan to go to the theatre today, just to continue living their lives and have a feeling of Ukraine’s approaching victory.

The daily reality in Ukraine became regular sirens, cold bomb shelters, electricity cut, recognising a type of weapon by the sound, fear for the life of family members who are fighting in the frontline, defending Ukraine. But they all want to continue living a life further.”
Julien adds:
“The ongoing war in Ukraine has left a deep scar on the hearts and souls of many. Families have been torn apart, homes destroyed, and dreams shattered. Cities and landscapes have been ravaged by the sound of bombs and gunfire, leaving only destruction.

I used to go to Ukraine several times per year since already quite long. The last time I went there, in July 2022, was to shoot this mini-series ‘Portraits from the War in Ukraine’.

Four months after the beginning of the Russian invasion, I discovered a radically different Kyiv. This dynamic city which I liked so much, was now half-empty streets with military barrages protecting strategic governmental areas. The sound of wailing sirens, which regularly disturbed this tranquillity, have now become too common. It is in this context that we started to shoot our first interview...

This series of interviews displays radically different characters, from different countries, who paradoxically cooperate all together. […] It was amazing and so much reinsuring to witness how good human being can be.”
We hope the portraits highlight this message of resilience and solidarity to you.

View the full series here: and please share with your networks.

Our deepest thanks go to Olga and Julien for their production of Portraits from the War in Ukraine, and to all the interviewees who honoured us with their stories for this series: Monika, Yaroslav and all at SpivDiia Hub Kyiv, Elena and her colleagues at Touraine-Ukraine Association, Iliena, Liiana, Makarii, Polina, Nastia, Mykhaylo, Uliana, Solomia and all at Ukrainian Volunteer Service.

At Peace Direct, we continue to stand in solidarity with those who have had their lives uprooted by the invasion, and hold on to hope for positive peace in Ukraine.

To help us continue our work supporting local peacebuilders responding to conflicts, please consider sending us a donation now.


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