Project Title: Life After Injury
“Do you hear the birds outside, singing? It is beautiful,” I hear him saying. His name is Evhenii, and he looks at me from the hospital bed he is lying on. He is thin, pale, and nothing like the beefy young guy on his social media profile picture. He is a Ukrainian army soldier, and two days after turning 21 he stepped on an anti-personnel land mine in East Ukraine. It severely injured his legs and caused damage to his internal organs. He wears a colostomy bag, and will be able to start walking only in three months.
My intent is to create 10 to 15 photo stories about young Ukrainian soldiers who were wounded during the ongoing war with Russia-backed rebels and Russian regular army in the Donbass region. Since May 2014 this conflict has taken over 9,000 lives. More than 5,000 Ukrainian soldiers were injured. Just like the Afghanistan war veterans 30 years ago, they face a lack of physical and psychosocial rehabilitation programmes.
I want to concentrate on their adaptation to peaceful life when they come home, a story that gets overlooked in media outlets and existing photography projects. With the limitations their physical trauma imposes on them, they have to face an important challenge. They have to resocialise, as now they are different people with painful memories impossible to forget. With no help from the government and less financial support from patrons they have to overcome new difficulties and seek possibilities themselves or with the support from their relatives and friends.
The Ukrainian government often neglects the contribution of these men. There are cases when war veterans’ documents would read that they were wounded during military training. To get regular compensation they have to go through a special medical commission that would prove that they were injured during battle. No rehabilitation facilities that could potentially help Ukrainian soldiers deal with both physical and psychological trauma are built. Ukrainian war veterans have to reach out to special programmes that would send them abroad for either physical or psychosocial rehabilitation.
With this project I would like to raise awareness on a growing number of war veterans in Ukraine. Despite the Minsk agreements that state a ceasefire, dozens of Ukrainian soldiers get injured every week. My goal is to create a website where their stories would be featured, which will also act as a fundraising platform for them. Each story would be presented as a series of visuals and a text interview conducted in person.
Alexey Furman is a Ukrainian freelance photojournalist currently pursuing his master’s degree at Missouri School of Journalism on a Fulbright scholarship. He has been covering Ukrainian daily news since 2009. In 2013 he became a frequent contributor to Ukraine’s local edition of National Geographic Magazine.
When the Ukrainian revolution started, he was deeply involved in the coverage, and then moved to Crimea and East Ukraine to continue photographing the ongoing conflict for various international outlets. Over the last year his focus switched to longer-term intimate storytelling.
Alexey’s work has been recognized by POYi, NPPA, PDN Photo Annual, CPOY and Kuala Lumpur Photo Awards. He was the recipient of the Bayeux-Calvados Award for War Correspondents in 2014 in the “Young Reporter” category and is an Eddie Adams Workshop and Missouri Photo Workshop alumnus.
His pictures have been published in TIME, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Al Jazeera America, 6MOIS, The Guardian, De Standaard, Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, The Independent, FAZ, SZ, El Pais, De Volkskrant and National Geographic Magazine Ukraine.
In September 2015 Alexey Furman joined Getty Images Reportage as an Emerging Talent photographer.