44 imagesThe wounds of war are tormenting eastern Ukraine: thousands of civilians and soldiers continue living in towns and villages along the country’s conflict areas, surviving with an almost total lack of psychological support. The once welcoming landscape is now constellated by damaged, burnt out houses and empty buildings. A number of schools and institutions have managed to remain open, but the sound of machine-guns and explosions are still daily occurrences. Children can't sleep: they have nightmares, they shake, they pee in their pants. Many victims of trauma only run into psychological problems at a later time, reliving events even years after they happened and experiencing them all over again as if it was the first time. Sometimes they are unwillingly led to suicide or to hurt others. Often supported by volunteers and challenged by limited resources and small budgets, social workers tirelessly carry out mental rehabilitation programs. Many Ukrainians have lived through gruesome and dangerous experiences. They are increasingly becoming depressed, angry and overly suspicious about both sides of the conflict, only hoping for it to end soon through political will and diplomacy. With around 10.000 dead since April 2014, and more than one million civilians displaced, sufficient help to cope with the widespread trauma is unavailable. Mental health professionals are also affected by the stigma of the Soviet era, when political dissidents were 'treated' in 'institutions'. As a result, even if people have the opportunity to visit a psychologist, they are often afraid of potentially being labeled 'crazy'. The severe lack of services and opportunities could lead to a social catastrophe. If combined with the deep economic crisis Ukraine is facing, it could be disruptive to the country’s long-term peace efforts and future development.
42 images'Azov' is one of Ukraine's battalions made up of volunteers fighting against pro-Russia separatists in the country's eastern regions, the Donbass. They are known as right-wing radicals and are very proud of their patriotism. At the 'Azov' summer camps, which started in 2015, experienced frontline fighters are teaching children of all ages to feel confident around weapons; they also practice shooting, maintenance, survival techniques and tactical knowledge in extreme combat scenarios. In addition, they celebrate nationalism and are taught the highest moments of Ukraine's historical heroes. Children at the 'Azov' camps are shown and explained the realities of war; they are taught about Ukraine's identity and its struggle for freedom towards geographical, political and psychological independence from Russia and its communist past. Members of the 'Azov' battalion believe Ukraine is fully ready to shape its own future as a completely independent nation without interference from other world powers, with Russia on top of the list.
27 imagesFollowing renewed hostilities with pro-Russia separatists, July 2016 has been the bloodiest in 18 months for Ukrainian soldiers, facing a better-equipped, persistent enemy. As the conflict morphed into a positional trench war, both parties regularly shell each other with artillery, thus making aerial surveillance devices indispensable. They are the "eyes of the army." The only downsides: drones are expensive, can be seen flying and shot down. While the Ukrainian army is working with a very limited budget, drones are mostly flown and repaired by patriotic civilian volunteers - IT professionals, entrepreneurs and hobbyists, that in collaboration with frontline units provide up-to-date information about the enemy in real time.