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Ukraine: a country on a blood-stained quest for identity.

I spent some weeks in Ukraine in 2015, a year after the Maidan protests. I met people from the most diverse social classes. They are all fighting for their idea of Ukraine. In some ways, these ideas are very far apart.

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Irina fled from Crimea to Kiev, where she now lives in an abandoned building that used to house the staff of former Ukrainian president Yanukovych.
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Ihor was shot in his leg while he was protesting on the Maidan. Like all the wounded protestors, he wants the one who shot him to be sentenced.
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Oleg, a 26-year-old IT engineer, lived in Donetsk until he came to Kiev as a leader of the Maidan protests.

The conservative patriarch in the influential Russian Orthodox church, the activists from Crimea, the wounded Maidan demonstrator, the male couple, the nationalist independence fighter - they are all pulling in different directions. Will Ukraine become a liberal and western-oriented state? Will the influence of Russia grow? Or will Ukraine achieve full independence?.

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Vladyka Pavel is the leader of the Lavra, the biggest Slavonian monastery, and one of the highest representatives of the Russian orthodox church. He fights against the influence of the West.
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People like Revaz, 24, and Vania, 21, don’t live their love openly. In Ukraine, it would be too dangerous for two men or two women to walk hand in hand in the street.
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As a trans man, Fritz lives a difficult life in Ukraine.

For the first time in its history, Ukraine has been independent for one-quarter of a century now - and more disjointed than ever. I watched developments in the country with excitement and some concern. I was preoccupied with the fate of people whom I had met for my reports.

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Yuri (not his real name) is a member of the Azov Battalion, a far right, all-volunteer infantry unit forming part of the military reserve of the National Guard of Ukraine. The Azov Battalion is fighting against the separatists in the eastern part of the country. Azov soldiers are often labelled “neo-Nazi”, an accusation that they deny.

Bloody serious by Patrick Rohr on Exposure

In 2015, I produced a multimedia report about the situation in Ukraine. Newspapers in Switzerland and the Netherlands published my pictures and texts, too.

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The Het Parool daily newspaper in the Netherlands published the series on Ukraine’s difficult search for identity in a double-page spread.
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Portrait in the Dutch photo magazine DigiPro.
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The Zurich Tages-Anzeiger newspaper ran a page featuring the Ukraine series.


Chernobyl.

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After the devastating Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, hundreds of thousands of people were resettled from the so-called circle of death – an area with a 30-kilometre radius around the failed reactor – to anonymous big cities in Ukraine. Not all the migrants accepted this willingly: they fought by stealth to return to their former homes, where some of them still live today, surrounded by deserted and dilapidated villages. A photographic visit to the widows of Chernobyl.

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Bosnia.

More than twenty years after the end of the war, Bosnia and Herzegovina is still a divided country. Former enemy groups seem on the surface to live peacefully together, but the tension is palpable in everyday life. While older generations seek to forgive, young people try to forget. They hope for a future in a land with a tragic past. Portraits from Srebrenica and Sarajevo.

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Japan.

Japan is a country of real contradictions – which are increasingly leading to impossible tension. The struggle between tradition and modernity, eastern and western living, protecting and opening up the country poses great challenges. The economy is crashing, the population dying off. A photo-essayistic approach to an elusive country.

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