Photo exhibition about IDPs tells Europeans about annexation and war in Ukraine


Photo exhibition “Displaced. 12 Stories from Ukraine” is a series of portraits of people who had to leave their homes because of the conflict in Donbas and the annexation of Crimea. International community is the main target audience of the exhibition.  The organizers wanted to get a message on war and occupation in Ukraine across to diplomats, journalists, opinion leaders and activists. “We wanted to give a human face to the conflict. It is difficult to sympathize with a person you know nothing about. We also needed to distinguish between Ukrainian IDPs and Middle East immigrants to avoid manipulations,” said Daria Zhydkova, project coordinator, Stabilization Support Services, at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

The exhibition started in Kyiv. Then it travelled all over Ukraine and in 2016-2017 visited six European cities, namely Brussels, London, Warsaw, The Hague and Strasbourg – in the Council of Europe premises. “These are very personal stories. They evoke understanding of the challenges IDPs are facing throughout the country. They strengthen the feeling of unity, but at the same time focus upon the variety and waken hopes for better common future. These are the features that help our exhibition to come home to foreign visitors,” believes Stephen Loyst, adviser for humanitarian issues of the British Embassy in Ukraine

Despite the fact that almost three year passed from the moment of annexation and beginning of war in Ukraine, there is not so much information about it in European community. “When I was talking to people in The Hague during the exhibition, I felt that they don’t have a deep understanding of the situation IDPs in Ukraine find themselves in. I believe their view became more realistic after talking to me. Media were very surprised to hear what I was telling them about my life, what I saw happening in Crimea, why I had to flee my home, about repressions against pro-Ukrainian people and Crimean Tatars who disappeared,” said Esat Alimov, protagonists of the exhibition. “When a common European citizen, not a functionary, who knows the situation, shows human understanding and compassion, it matters the most. If there are more Europeans like that, they will influence their decision-makers. These are the people who make democracy anyway,” says Olena Lutsenko, protagonists of the exhibition.

It is the distribution of true information about the conflict in Ukraine that can shift the balance in our favor. “We need to share information, it can change political balance. This information should spread further. IDPs have a right to be heard,” believes Małgorzata Sobolewskacoordinator of the exhibition in Warsaw. She also called upon taking the exhibition to small towns.