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High school students pose for graduation photos in war-torn Ukraine: 'We wanted to show our pain'

Photographer Stanislav Senyk captured the series documenting the destruction along with various classes of graduating high school seniors.

High school students pose for graduation photos in war-torn Ukraine: 'We wanted to show our pain'
Image source: Twitter/@avalaina

Among the many lives upended by the Russian invasion was that of high school graduates in Ukraine. Denied a chance to celebrate their graduation, a group of high school seniors is making a statement through a photo series captured by photographer Stanislav Senyk. The students posed in front of buildings, vehicles and other structures destroyed by Russian armed forces, highlighting the future staring at them during a time when they should be starting life. Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 and has killed many people, destroyed their livelihoods and forced millions to flee the country. Having witnessed the horrors of the attack, Senyk, 25, wanted to tell a “very important story” with the help of roughly 40 graduating seniors from schools in Chernihiv in northern Ukraine, reported Reuters.



“I’m sure it was very important to capture that in the memory,” said Senyk. “And 10-15 years from now, when they have their own children, they can show those pictures to them.” Juxtaposed against damaged buildings, the serious faces of the students tell a story in itself of the bleak future that stares them in the face. They could be seen wearing graduation sashes across their chests in the pictures. “Seeing it in person is a special feeling that cannot be described,” said Senyk. “But I was dominated by a different feeling. I saw the children who were there and it was like some kind of surrealism going on.” The places where they took pictures were also filled with bullet casings. They even posed for a picture next to a destroyed tank. 



While it may have been a "graduation shoot," it was also a "very difficult" one given the circumstances under which they were taking them. Olha Babynets, 17, said it was important to show the reality they were living every day. “We wanted to show that we live in such realities and it is like that for us,” she said. “No, we wanted to show our pain, which is there and has never subsided. It was difficult emotionally, but we tried to hold on. And I think we managed to do that.”



Senyk worked with different graduating classes and said they all picked different locations for their photoshoot. “And that shows that Chernihiv is pretty much ruined throughout,” he said. “Not a single location was repeated, not once were we in the same place.” The pictures taken by Senyk will be made into a graduation album and given to the students. He is also hoping to exhibit the pictures so he can donate the money raised to Ukrainian troops.


Ukrainian forces continue to withstand the Russian onslaught on many locations including the country’s eastern Donbas region. Ukraine President Zelenskyy stated the battle in the Donbas region remains "one of the most brutal battles" in European history, reported Fox News. "The battles in Donbas… will surely go down in military history as one of the most brutal battles in Europe and for Europe. The price of this battle for us is very high," he said. Kyiv authorities stated that the forces were losing 100 to 200 soldiers every day, with hundreds injured. This comes at a time when Russia is believed to be seeking "full control" over eastern and southern Ukraine. 


Ukraine suffered a huge blow after Russian forces destroyed the last remaining bridge over the Siverskyi Donets river. "The situation is very difficult, but there is communication with the city," said the Ukrainian mayor of Sievierodonetsk, Oleksandr Stryuk. "Russian troops are trying to storm the city, but the military is holding firm," said Stryuk. Zelenskyy has called for support in the form of weapons from world leaders. "Only a sufficient number of modern artillery for Ukraine will ensure our advantage and finally the end of Russian torture of the Ukrainian Donbas," warned Zelenskyy. "It only takes enough weapons to make it happen. The partners have it – in sufficient quantities. We work every day for the political will to give us these weapons," he added. 


Russia's attack on Ukraine is a developing story, and we’ll update as we learn more. Information is swiftly changing and Upworthy is committed to providing the most recent and verified updates in our articles and reportage. However, considering the frequency in developments, some of the information/data in this article may have changed since the time of publication.


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