Although it seems like far more time has passed by since Russia began its assault on Ukraine, it has been only a few months. What feels like a years-long ordeal began back in February. Time has a tendency to warp and elongate and sludge its way on in times of utter despair and disaster.
Back in the early days of the war, photographer Grant Lewandowski was on his way to the Polish-Ukrainian border to work with Wide Awake International, a nongovernmental organization that helped Ukrainian orphans with disabilities. Once he arrived in the area, he would spend the next few days navigating the hellscape wrought by the war.
Lewandowski recounts what his initial experience was like in “To Hope,” just published by Nighted Life. He says:
“There were many bizarre moments during my twenty-plus hour journey from Warsaw to Zhytomyr: What it was like to travel in the middle of the night across the Polish/Ukrainian border. How it felt pulling up to my first, of many, Ukrainian military checkpoints and hearing distant gunshots. Hitchhiking my way east through Ukraine. Witnessing the military or civilians courageously ready to defend their land from Russian invaders. These experiences opened my eyes and my heart to the Ukrainian people who are resilient and devoted to defend their people, culture, and land.”
As the machinations of war increased, security became a chief concern, and after only five days on the ground, Lewandowski’s group decided it was time to leave. But that would not be the end of thoughts roiling through his head about how to continue to help Ukrainians.
“I thought about how I could use photography to highlight, aid, and give voice to the struggle I witness every day and the national photographers I admire. I dreamt of curating a publication which would comprise all of that is complicated and beautiful and hope to place this paltry, but ambitious book into the world, since I believe photography has the possibility to give space for reflection in a world violently divided.”
And this is how “To Hope” was birthed. It brings together the work of mostly Ukrainian photographers, alongside a few very well known non-Ukrainian photographers. The book brings photography and text together and constructs a picture that “contrasts the current reality of chaos, tragedy and war with the anticipation of a peaceful, beautiful post-war Ukraine.”
All of the profits from the sale of the book will be given to two organizations, Kyiv Angels and Livyi Bereh, that provide support to Ukrainians affected by the war and those in desperate need on the eastern front lines.
You can find out more about the book and buy it here.