My book Masks of the Holodomor has been selected to take part in the Magnum Portfolio Review on Friday 28th June. The 30 photographers selected will be put into groups and assigned to one of the Magnum photographers who will be taking the sessions.
and David Alan Harvey.
I have my fingers crossed for Jonas group as he has done extensive work in Russia.
I never thought I would ever go to this place but today I fulfilled a dream.
We all know what, where, how and why so I will not explain the history but what I will say is: I would recommend this place to everyone.
You can see the new casing being built for reactor No 4 as the one housing it now will no longer work efficiently by 2016. This means the builders have to complete the project on time and we all know, no matter what country you come from that this is an impossible task for all builders.
The food in the canteen is amazing, they really know how to feed people in Ukraine and as anyone who is interested in this places knows, all the food is brought in.
Over 3,000 people work here and some older Ukrainians have returned to there homes and have lived in Chernobyl for years. These people have their own currency….. moonshine 🙂 you have to love the spirit of these people.
The place is also home to horses, lynx, wild boar, vipers and wolves, so if you are just as interested in the wildlife, I suggest you pick a time of year you are more likely to see these things. Although maybe avoid breading season. I was lucky as I saw a wild horse and they have not been seen by the guides for a long time because it is getting colder.
I would also like to add that if you would like to see this place, sooner is better than later as they believe that none of the building will still be standing in a few years to come. There was a large section of the school in Pripyat that collapsed this time last year and some tourists fell through the floor in one of the other buildings, which just goes to show how unstable this place has become.
Today I woke at 3.30am and was picked up outside the hostel a little after 4am by Sasha and his family. We then drove for over 5 hours to the town in which he grew up.
We arrived at his mothers house around 9.30. She treated us to a wonderful breakfast before we set off again to see the famous train station and interview his grandmother, who is a survivor of Holodomor. I wish I could explain just how wonderful this family is, every last one of them was kind, generous, open and friendly to me. Even with the language barrier, they fussed over me and made me feel so welcome.
Later in the day I met a man and his four children who are suffering today. (Sasha’s family also help him, they are not rich people but they have the biggest hearts of anyone I know.) I was told his story, it was a hard one to hear as I felt guilt for being given a better situation in my life but it is a story that needed to be told. I have promised him gifts for his children, (clothes and sweets,) nothing fancy but I was touched by his courage and hardworking nature and I believe he deserves some relief even if it is only small. I also took some photos of his children, which will be printed out and given to him, as he has no photos of his family.
We then returned to Sasha’s mums, after a few more detours on the way back and I was again greatly fed. It was delightful to eat home cooked food and be looked after so well.
But the faces of the four children have been swimming around my head all day. I just want to sit with them and give them the longest hug. I wanted to explain to them that life will not always be like this and that they will always be loved. And I wanted to tell their father how amazing he was for not giving up, it must be so easy to turn to drink or death when life is so rough everyday but he doesn’t. The love he has for his children is bigger than that and I stand in ore at the internal beauty of this family.
I am humbled by this country and its people.
Today I made it the the Chernobyl Memorial Museum. It is small but very informative and it worth a visit by anyone who comes to Kyiv.
In England we know a lot about this part of Ukraine’s history because it affected us and personally I am interested in this area for a few reasons:
One: It happened a few weeks before I was born, so it is living history.
Two: It is the biggest disaster of its kind.
Three: It is connected to the Urbex movement, which I have been apart of for many years.
Each time I read about this, the shock is always the same and I was not even connected to the devastation. I can not even imagine the heartache felt by the people of Chernobyl and surrounding villages but I am proud to see that it is talked about and not hidden away like a dirty secret. We can but learn from our inevitable mistakes.
I will not be updating my blog tomorrow as I will be in a rural village but I will return to the city late Sunday night and if I am not to exhausted I will write up a two day blog.
Today I met with Sasha. We met at Arsenal’na station and walked through Glory Square, which holds memorial statues for Holodomor plus the deaths from the great patriotic war and then we moved on to the Holodomor Memorial Museum itself. Here we spoke to the ladies who run the exhibit and I got more contacts. One a lady who has done scientific work into Holodomor and the curator (maybe) and she asked if I will send my book, when it is complete, so they can possibly exhibit it with the other works. This is very exciting because my work will lay along side my great grandfather’s.
Next, we moved on to Lavra Pecher’ka, seeing the mummified religious figures, the oldest church in Ukraine and gathered a lot of historical information about the area.
And then we went to Sasha’s house to meet his wife and children. On the way we went through the markets (real Ukrainian food = no chemicals) and when we arrived I was invited to eat some wonderful local food. I am so greatful for their hospitality and kindness the whole family showed me.
I wonder if tomorrow can top today???
Landing in Kyiv was hell. My ears felt like they had blood pouring out of them, so there I was head in between my knees, tears streaming down my face, with a very kind Ukrainian man sat next to me, giving me tips on how to make it better.
I got ripped off by a taxi man….saw that coming a mile off…but made it to the Hostel safely and went to bed at 5.30pm as I had not slept in 3days and got up fresh as a daisy 15 hours later.
I was lucky enough to have a tour guide today, in the form of a very kind but slightly unlucky Canadian, Billy. He has lost (by this I mean stolen) his passport and cant get back home for another week! Bad for him but good for me, as without him today would have been very different.
We went for a walk in the rain to down town Kyiv, I had a meeting with the owner of Kyiv Post (newspaper in English) and owner J. Micheal was extremely kind. He has given me a contact and is willing to publish some of my work once it is complete. When the meeting was over, we decided to go for a walk around town but Billy remembered that a library close by had a small display of history at the back, so we head over.
I asked/signed to the lady at the desk if I am allowed to photograph the display and she agreed. Later she was asking questions but I did not understand, again Billy to the rescue and soon she understands what it is we are looking for and goes scurrying off. Returning with a small pile of books, all on Holodomor but also all in Ukrainian. She disappears again and comes back with some more books, one in english and there it was, my grandfathers images.
I got his Leica camera out and placed it next to the book, feeling very proud to be in this position and Billy swiftly explained to the librarian that this camera took that photograph, She seemed very impressed.
I was then shown around the town and when 4pm rolled around (time for my second meeting) I notice my phone was not working!!!!! AHHHHH This meeting is important to my work, and I have no choice but to stand this guy Sasha up….Gutted. So I jumped into the nearest gamers cafe and emailed my apologies. Hopefully I will meet with him tomorrow.
Must have walked a few miles and was a beautiful start to what I hope to be a very informative trip.
P.S what they say in travel guides about Ukraine seems to be a load of shit, yes people are a little rude but so am I if you look thick as beetroot. They are just like Londoners accept Ukrainian like to feed you up once they get you into their homes.
I wonder what tomorrow will bring…..