A group of high-school graduates in Ukraine’s Chernihiv came into global spotlight when photographer Stanislav Senyk photographed them on their graduation day using the ruins of the city as a haunting backdrop.
Senyk said that the story he was documenting through his photographs was very important. The students who graduated from schools witnessed the first-hand horrors of the war which is now in its fourth month.
“I’m sure it was very important to capture that in the memory. And 10-15 years from now, when they have their own children, they can show those pictures to them,” Senyk was quoted as saying by news agency Reuters.
The pictures show a group of school seniors huddled together atop a damaged tank. Another set of pictures show a group of school girls staring down towards the cameraman below as they stand on a decimated building.
Senyk told Reuters that he felt there was a ‘kind of surrealism’ during the course of the photoshoot as he looked at the children through his camera lens.
A 17-year-old teenager Olha Babynets said she enjoyed the photoshoot but said it was a difficult experience for everyone involved. She said that through the pictures she, along with her friends, wanted to show that this is the reality that thousands of Ukrainian students are living in.
“No, 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,” Olha was quoted as saying by news agency Reuters.
Senyk said that photos will now be compiled in the graduation albums for the students. He also plans to display them in an exhibition and raise funds to help the Ukrainian army.
The photographer also pointed out that none of the photos were clicked in one place and the locations for each photograph were different. “That shows that Chernihiv is pretty much ruined throughout. Not a single location was repeated, not once were we in the same place,” Senyk said. Each class involved were taken to different locations for the photoshoot.
Russia’s attack on Ukrainian cities has also dented Ukraine’s image as an education provider for students who cannot afford education in the US and other top universities in Western countries but the number of universities turned to rubble in the war could mean that it will take years to rebuild them and reopen their doors to international students.