"Lands of No-Return" 2009 - 2016
is a long-term documentary project portraying the last remains of the authentic Ukrainian villages and their elderly inhabitants.
The current conflict in Ukraine is drawing everyone’s attention to the war zones, the solders and the families that have been directly affected by the war. However, there is a big part of Ukraine’s population that seems to have been forgotten. People, whose life started at the backdrop of WWII, who persevered through the hardships of Soviet regime, and who, now in their final years of life, have to struggle again for survival. This old generation has been heavily affected, especially those who live in villages because they are now, more than ever before, abandoned by the government and often by their own families. Moreover, they also keep losing their sons and grandsons who are fighting in this senseless war.
I was born in Ukraine, and my grandparents lived in one of the small villages near Kiev. I remember visiting this place as a child. Those memories are filled with light and happiness. When I visited this village again for the first time after many years of immigration, I was astounded at how lifeless and miserable it looked. Those who remained there were almost exclusively the elderly. They are living out their last days; neglected by everybody, they are gradually disappearing together with their traditions and their deteriorating homes.
Over the past 10 years, I came to Ukraine several times and photographed the villages surrounding its capital. While working on Chapter 2, 2016 I have noticed that the situation has gotten much worse in the recent few years and many of the places that I visited and photographed previously don’t exist anymore. Some of the people have died and their houses have been destroyed in order to build “datcha” (summer houses) for the rich.
For me this series is a kind of tribute to the past. This project is the most personal of all my works because it is directly related to my grandfather and great-grandmother who were born and who are buried in one of these villages. However, even though this project started as a personal journey, the more I worked on it, the more I realized that capturing and commemorating these people and places has a greater value. They are the last remaining evidence of the once magical and vibrant culture that will soon be known only from the history books.