“Their graduation, their prom, their everything… just cracked.”
Ukrainian students have marked their graduation day by taking photographs using school ruins and damaged buildings as a backdrop.
Photographer Stanislav Senyk told Reuters he wanted to document the “very important story” of roughly 40 students graduating from schools in Chernihiv, a city in northern Ukraine, and show the devastating impact of the war.
“I saw the children who were there and it was like some kind of surrealism going on,” Senyk said.
“I realised that I could write a very important story at that moment, about schoolchildren who were graduating and who had witnessed the war, and because of that their graduation, their prom, their everything, just cracked.
“It was very important to capture that memory. And 10 to 15 years from now, when they have their own children, they can show those pictures to them.”
@theipaper Photographer Stanislav Senyk captured the reality graduating classes face during the Ukraine war #ukrainewar #ukrainevsrussia #chernihiv #ukrainenews #ukrainianphotographer #ukraineschool #fyp ♬ UNDERWATER WONDERSCAPES (MASTER) – Frederic Bernard
One photo showed girls standing in a wrecked bombed-out building and another featured a group of students huddled on top of a tank.
In a TikTok video, Senyk said that no one location was repeated in the photoshoot, which shows that Chernihiv “is pretty much ruined throughout”.
The images will now be compiled into a graduation album for the students. Senyk also wants to showcase them in an exhibition and hopefully sell some of them to raise money for Ukraine.
Many students said taking the photographs was a difficult experience for them, but one they felt was important.
“We wanted to show that we live in such realities,” 17-year-old Olha Babynets told Reuters.
“We wanted to show our pain, which is there and has never subsided. It was difficult emotionally, but we tried to hold on. And I think we managed to do that.”
In another series of photos taken by Abdullah Unver in Kharkiv for the Anadolu Agency, a girl in a red dress stands among the ruins of what was once her school.
Anna Episheva, a graduate of the Kharkiv school destroyed by the occupiers:"… I am 16 years old … I studied at school 134 in #Kharkiv … there were a lot of friends from school, we were like one big family … 1/ pic.twitter.com/JD7zlAF37k
— Serhii from Ukraine (@MrAshawa) June 7, 2022
In a social media post, she was quoted as saying: “I am 16 years old … I studied at school 134 in Kharkiv… there were a lot of friends from school, we were like one big family.
“With the girls we chose dresses and were glad that everyone would be very beautiful. on graduation day. But the ‘Russian world’ came to us and ruined all our plans, which we dreamed of.”
Images via @senykstas on Instagram