42 images'Azov' is one of Ukraine's battalions made up of volunteers, regular citizens who chose to stand up for their country, and to join the fight against pro-Russia militias in the country's eastern regions, the Donbass. They are known as far-right radicals and are very proud of their patriotism. Now part of the National Guard, under command of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, its members believe Ukraine to be fully ready to shape its own future as a completely independent nation. At the 'Azovets' summer camps, which started in 2015, experienced former fighters are teaching children of all ages to feel confident around weapons and combat scenarios; they are disciplined and examined, they practice shooting positions, maintenance, survival techniques, laser-gun games, martial arts, physical training and tactical knowledge. In addition, they celebrate nationalism and are taught the highest moments of Ukraine's historical heroes with songs, slogans, poems and evenings around the campfire. Children at the 'Azovets' 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. *Text Available.*
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.
28 imagesFollowing renewed hostilities between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russia separatists, the Donbass conflict has morphed into a positional trench war, where 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.
45 imagesJulia Paevska, 37, is a volunteer paramedic from Kiev working for the organisation ‘As Soon As Possible’, an NGO 'on fast wheels' coordinating ambulances along the frontline, and providing medical and evacuation services to save the lives of injured soldiers and civilians in eastern Ukraine, where the war between government and pro-Russia separatists is raging on since 2014. After the Maidan revolution, a massive movement composed of civilian volunteers from all over Ukraine has been growing exponentially, and taking up many of the duties that the government cannot properly handle or fulfil, providing essential services in support of their countrymen and free nation. Many Ukrainians have been taking up responsibility and action in their own hands, demonstrating a ‘mental revolution’ that stands in stark contrast to the 'Soviet world', where the state has always been in charge for most decisions.