Till death do us part

Elena Pavlova

2019 - Ongoing

My father was killed in the World Trade Centre on September 11 2001 in New York at he age of 55.

For twenty years I could talk about it with my family only, it was too personal. Perhaps I wanted to shield myself and my loved ones from strangers’ curiosity, unwanted questions, leave my father with us and not sharing him with the world.

Now, almost 20 years later, I feel the strength and the need to tell the story. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world’s history to ‘before ‘ and ‘after’ - it will never be the same, just as 9/11 did.

Both of these events turned out to be Black Swans, according to Nassim Taleb. These are our collective traumas, in which everyones' personal stories are interwoven.

The events happened in our family during the pandemic year are also closely connected to my father. His younger brother has died from the effects of the coronavirus in St. Petersburg, Russia. On a brighter side, during the lock down, my my father’s grand-niece was born in New York.

Few years ago we moved my mother from her apartment in Brooklyn, NY to be near to us in Ukraine as she couldn’t cope living in US by herself. With age her memory has weakened, and after she contracted Coronavirus it became much worse. Sometimes she believes that my father is alive. At these moments it feels like her consciousness transfers into a parallel universe, where the events of the past were different. According to the theory of multiple worlds, this is possible.

I dedicate this photo project to my father and to my mother who continues waiting for him.

As mind is able to change the events of the past and create another reality, so with the help of archives and digital image manipulation one can imagine a different story.

The project is ongoing

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  • This bush, resembling sea buckthorn, grows in the city park where my mother often walks. In Siberia, where my parents met, it is considered a particularly valuable berry because of its healing properties.

  • ‘Father will sleep here when he returns’, says mother.

  • Mother writes everything down, this way she tries to cope with a memory loss.

  • Mom photographed this flowering bush under the snow next to their apartment in NY. For me it is a symbol that life always goes on.

  • Mother used to go to the church often, but not any more. She still prays every day.

  • When they found my father’s body they returned his personal belongings to us in this envelope.

  • A key chain with the car-key from a minivan my dad drove. When 9/11 happened, we remembered about the car only a week after. When we found it parked on one of the streets next to my parents apartment, there were several fines for parking on the wrong day, which the city later canceled.

  • When we were children my parents had dacha - a garden that provided us with home grown fruit and vegetables. Winter pear varieties had to ripen for several months in a dark cool place.

  • For the first time since the the virus outbreak my sister came to visit us from England. Father is with us.