In the Spring of 2014 shortly after the violent Maidan uprising and the annexation of Crimea, much was left uncertain in Ukraine. I landed in Kyiv on a stormy morning in May and moved from house to house, staying with generous members of a death metal band. Through living with these young adults, all roughly my age (early 20s), I began to consider what life would be like for me had I been raised in Ukraine. So began my exploration of what it means to be young in a country at a moment of transition and extreme precariousness.

I interviewed and photographed 50 Ukrainian youth aged 13 to 26, distributing questionnaires asking participants to describe themselves and how they felt at this moment in their country’s history.

I discovered a variety of faces, stories and struggles. A tough, glassy-eyed 14-year-old who wouldn’t let me photograph his face except masked; when I asked to at least know his name told me “Bandera.” An 18-year-old Crimean refugee who had bravely, desperately left her entire family behind. A 22-year-old dirt biker who said: “I don’t give a fuck about politics” but then ranted about Maidan and the recent fighting in the East. From the 13-year-old girl born HIV-positive to the nudist couple on Hidropark, these people helped me better understand what it meant to be young in Ukraine in 2014. 

Now nearly 10 years later, the country is in the midst of a full scale war. I hope to share some of faces and stories of those who have inherited this environment of unrelenting conflict and uncertainty.

This series received a solo exhibition at the Ukrainian Institute of America in New York City in 2014.

Cheney Orr © All rights reserved.
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