A couple of months ago, prior to Putin launching his heinous attack on innocent Ukrainians across the country, Lena Kozar – a 30-year-old culture journalist based in Kyiv – reached out to photographer Elena Heatherwick to see if she could write an article on her practice.
Since the war started, over two weeks ago now, Elena and Lena have continued to check in on one another, with the photographer offering any help she could provide. “I told her that I would like to tell my story,” Lena describes. “I wanted to tell everyone I could that my beautiful country is being destroyed by Russian aggression.” Today, alongside a series of photographs taken by Elena in Polissia, Ukraine, close to the Belarus border, which is currently under attack, we’re honoured to publish that story.
I was asleep when the war started. I have been living on a busy avenue for years and got used to the noise outside. The sounds of rumbling cars and late party-goers don’t wake me up. Neither did the explosions on that dreadful morning.
We spent the previous couple of months in anticipation of war, but I never believed that it was actually going to happen. I read about Russian troops accumulating on our borders, but still went skiing in the Carpathian Mountains. I listened to a podcast about grab-and-go bags, while planning dinner with my friends. Embracing the upcoming disaster was unbearable. When it happened, though, I was terrified, shaken, but hardly surprised.
Emotionally, living through the first days of a war is like swinging between two extremes. You go from anguish and panic to hope and euphoria; from paralysing fear of death to hectic agitation. Finally, you land on numbness, you get adjusted.