Kyiv, July 14, 2015. “A mine exploded in my hand. I could not throw it aside; there was a crowd on the right and on the left, and my friend’s back in front of me. I never wanted to be at war. I am an extremely peaceful person but I am ready to defend people, my land where I was born and live.” this story was told by soldier Ivan Kushneryov in a hospital to Viktoria Yasynska, the author of the “Portrait of the Soldier” exhibition. “Vania lost both his hands and both feet in the ATO. When I was heading to our meeting, I was afraid. I did not know what to expect from our conversation. However, Vania turned out to be one of the most positive people I have ever talked to. He was overwhelmed with hope for a peaceful life in Ukraine. He dreams of having seven children and a house on the Dnipro River bank,” said Yasynska at a press briefing at the Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
The author has been talking to Ukrainian soldiers and taking pictures of them for over one year now. “Photographs for me are more than words. They embody the spectrum of social and psychological problems that troops face in the ATO,” said Yasynska.
Twenty-one portraits of servicemen will be presented at Ukraine Crisis Media Center from July 14 to July 19. “I photographed many Ukrainian soldiers in hospitals, some at the front and some simply in the city. The exhibition would not have happened if the volunteers hadn’t helped us,” said Yasynska. According to her, “Portrait of the Soldier” is half documentary half exhibition. They are united only by one idea: to defend their homeland regardless of any problems or revenge for their fallen brothers- and sisters-in-arms.
“Portrait of the Soldier” is to be showcased in Boston and New York in August,” the author shared. “In autumn, I plan to expand it twofold and present in Ukraine’s regions. It is very important to me that the entire world knows about our hero soldiers,” stated Yasynska. In future, the author plans to put together all the stories of Ukrainian servicemen with their portraits and arrange them into a book. Donations are being collected to rehabilitate soldiers under the aegis the exhibition.
Probratym [Brother-in-Arms] training provides precisely such kind of rehabilitation services. “We started our work last February. The second stage of the Probratym training project is about to start. The training was aimed at rehabilitating returning troops after deployment to the ATO and at adaptation to social life in peaceful times,” said Olena Mas.
According to Mas, the exhibition demonstrates that servicemen require not only social support from the state but also common psychological training. She reported holding special classes and talking to the servicemen individually over three-and-a-half months to improve their emotional and psychological state. “Veterans who were the best students in the training course volunteered to talk to other veterans, so that they too could share their experiences and feelings during psychological rehabilitation courses,” concluded Mas.