November 2023

We enter Velyka Komyshuvakha as stalkers in the disaster zone. At the entrance is a school destroyed by an aerial bomb of which only a part of the frame remained.

A boy rides on a bicycle along a path of destroyed houses. A small flock of sheep is slowly trotting behind him. The boy stops and gives a military salute, stretching out and putting his hand to his temple. Nazar Korytko, 11 years old, says that there are a lot of people in the village. About 80 out of the 900 who lived here until 2022. They are the ones who decided to return and rebuild their houses.

Raisa Bibilashvili is a former occupational safety engineer. She was sitting by the window drinking coffee when a fighter jet flew directly over her head. She thought: "Now I'll finish my coffee and go to the basement." But she didn't have time. The plane made a circle and dropped the bomb. It seemed to her a bomb had fallen in her backyard but they had actually struck the school.

The bomb that destroyed the school was also heard by Iryna Tytarenko. Her sons, their wives and granddaughter Alisa, had come to her from Izium to seek shelter. They thought that it would be safer in the village. Iryna ran with four-year-old Alisa to the cellar. She told the girl that it was a game, a dragon had attacked them and they were running to hide in a cave. She said it so that the child would not be scared. "To the cave!" - the girl was happy and joined the game.

When the first residents of the village returned home in September 2022, the school and shop were still smoking, the houses had no roofs and domestic animals roamed the village. People were shocked by the destruction they saw. Someone only found ashes on where once was their home.

This photo story was published as "Im Vakuum zwischen Leben und Tod" by Republik on January 4th, 2024

Ukrainian forces from the 80th Brigade of State Security defend the frontline of Bakhmut.
Chasiv Yar & Bakhmut