Ukrainian Conflict or Donbass War, 2016
Some shared beliefs lead men to make extreme and inhuman life choices, but so ingrained as to be expected, or even a culture. And you get used to the smell of burning rubber filling your nostrils, to a surreal landscape of mines, barbed wire, destroyed buildings, and shapeless piles of twisted metal sheets.
This is the image of the eastern outskirts of Ukraine, where men have been living with the roar of mortar shells and grenades for years. Faces now tired but proud, proud to be Ukrainian.
Mercenaries of the ideal called soldiers, volunteers, heroes, violent or brave, but also fathers, sons, comrades, and brothers. Different generations, their hands blackened by the grease of AK47s, living the war, where, absurdly, in their daily madness, dormant values and feelings typical of human beings re-emerge. In the hectic time of war, there is a pause, a time to suspend action, and it is here that their gazes are lost here, and the inherent contrast between the human side and their work as soldiers force them to be inhuman explodes worse than a roar. Amidst crates of ammunition and clutter everywhere, stray cats prowl for rats, mascots to care for the soldiers as much as them. Some soldiers drink coffee, others smoke cigarettes, and others hug and care for a Kalashnikov with faded handles.
In an entirely abnormal situation, there are necessary moments with which one believes one maintains a connection with the ‘normal world’.
An apparent calm interrupted by heavy footsteps treading on piles of memory, incomprehensible words barely whispered, or by the silences of those with no comments left. Big faces, huge necks and the large sizes of men from the East alternate with dull, bored faces and lost eyes circled with tiredness, all guided by similar convictions: those of a ‘new order‘ and a ‘national revolution‘.
Marked in each of them is the nationalist spirit, an unhealthy nationalism, which goes beyond life itself, which does not see affections, wives, children, mothers, or fathers, who mourn their absences, temporary and often perennial, or who alternatively have to resign themselves to finding sons who have been engraved on their bodies by the war.