Publisher:  Self published
Language: English


Photography and text: Justyna Mielnikiewicz

The original idea of Ukraine Runs Through It was to document the country away from daily politics with the Dnipro River as the metaphorical line of reference. When I started photographing in the spring of 2014, I had to adjust that concept. Witnessing the immediate and profound impact the revolution and the war had on people’s daily lives became an important element of my work, an inherent undercurrent in the river-themed project.

Mykola (Nikolai) Gogol in his essay titled “A Glance at the Composition of Little Russia” wrote that “much in history is decided by geography.” While in the past, the landscape has often served as a natural barrier to invaders, it is not really the case anymore.

Nevertheless, the Dnipro has often been portrayed as the demarcation line between the Ukrainian-speaking western part of the country and the Russian dominated eastern lands. Nowadays it’s a contrived perception, even more so now since the Maidan revolutions and the on-going war. Concept of Little Russia is buried in the past, replaced by country Ukraine.

The same goes for the fabricated issue of divisions based on language. Russian-speaking language rights were used as a pretext to divide people along a reinforced East-West line to instigate unrest. In reality many ethnic Ukrainians use Russian as their first language and a great number of ethnic Russians identify as Ukrainian patriots. Historically, the lingua franca of eastern Ukraine, in particular in its big industrial cities, tends to be Russian, while in the western part of the country, literary Ukrainian is more widely used. Yet in private and in the media people effortlessly mix both languages while speaking to each other as if there was one tongue.

My book covers a time that started at the end of the Revolution of Dignity, which I believe is one of the most compelling periods in the history of modern Ukraine. Few events since the fall of Communism in post-Soviet space have had such acute international ramifications involving both western Europe and the United States. What began as a protest against a corrupt government led to a new leadership but also war with Russia resulting in a massive transformation of society.

Ukrainians neither wanted nor expected that war. How they have coped with it is distinctive while also being a universal story of a nation’s struggle to deal with the turmoil which has been imposed on it.

The stories collected here are the record of a few individual experiences set on the background of central issues driving the transformation of the country and society.