16 December 2019

Secret Lives in the Shadows of the Ukrainian Conflict

16 December 2019 - Written by PhMuseum

Polish photographer Jan Jurczak documents the seemingly mundane everyday lives of ordinary people living on the peripheries of war in the outer suburbs of Donetsk.

"Death, as with love, is where I draw the line on documentation. It is too deep within the realm of human privacy for me to photograph it."

The photographs in Life Goes On were taken in Donetsk Oblast, eastern Ukraine, in towns mere kilometres away from the frontlines. Jan Jurczak grew particularly attached to one resilient community of locals in Avdiivka, a suburb of the city of Donetsk, to which he paid frequent visits.

Here he met Elena who rented an entire floor in a flat, making rooms available to those who were homeless. Residents fixed up a space for dance lessons and other activities. Irina, a makeup artist, whose son was killed by shelling, lives here too. Next to her reside Tanya and her young daughter, Kristina. Irina, Tanya, and Kristina don't have a home of their own anymore. Elena converted a larger room in Tanya's flat into a temporary Protestant church - it still contains a handful of chairs and an old TV, next to a new standing cross. Here, two realities overlap, life and war, love and death.

While the war in Ukraine has been raging since 2014, the media today has limited time dedicated to the conflict and even less for stories about those hidden lives in wartime.

Image by with words by Monika Szewczyk-Wittek.


Jan Jurczak is a Polish photographer involved with a number of long-term documentary projects in Poland and abroad. Since 2017, he has been working with Ukrainian communities located near the frontlines in the eastern portions of the country and in 2018 Jan also launched a project exploring the interactions between human and nature, portraying Yazdi ethnic minority in Armenia. Find him on PHmuseum and Instagram.


This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PHmuseum curators.

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