I’ve worked as a photojournalist for nearly a decade. This is the first time my family, friends, colleagues and I are at the centre of the events I’m covering. I have experience photographing conflict zones, but this time everything is different. Rather than going somewhere to chase a story and returning home, I’ve woken up in this never-ending assignment every morning for more than two months.
Prior to this, I spent three years working in occupied Crimea where there weren’t nearly as many journalists as we now have in Kyiv, Kharkiv, or the Donbas region. Foreigners might believe that we Ukrainian journalists shouldn’t feel a responsibility to continue working and covering the war, since so many international journalists are reporting on all sides of this invasion. But I still feel it’s necessary to go out with my camera every day to document my small piece of reality—especially my perspective as a Muslim Ukranian mother.
Lately I’ve worked in Kyiv, Poltava and Kharkiv. You’ve probably already heard the details of what’s been happening in nearly every Ukranian city and village from the news. By this point, you might even know where Bucha or Izyum are better than I did before the invasion. I’ve been capturing everyday life in empty cities, the evacuations and the other consequences of the war. Now, I’m even documenting people as they return to homes they had only recently abandoned.
My colleagues and I are exhausted. We haven’t had a single day without sirens and bad news. But we have many reasons to keep working: to document war crimes, share victims’ and refugees’ stories, and show the true face of Russia to people who haven’t believed us over the past eight years.
As I do this work, I don’t just have to be a good photographer, but also a good mom and a good daughter for my family. I have to make sure that my loved ones are safe every day. Luckily, my home isn’t damaged and all of the people I am close to are still alive. I can focus on my work. This is the exception, not the rule.
Yet living in a war-torn country doesn’t only mean you’re surrounded by destruction, death, tears, weapons and military uniforms. People here are carrying on with small parts of the lives they had before the war. Despite everything, tiny glimpses of ordinary life in Ukraine still exist.