The Big Picture: National Pride Flourishes Amid War In Ukraine

ORIKHOVO-VASYLIVKA, Ukraine -- Over the past three years, London-based photographer Mark Neville has been travelling around Ukraine to work on several wide-ranging projects.

Lina in a national costume, Orikhovo-Vasylivka village.

One about holidaymakers in Odessa, another about people at worship, and an extensive series depicting the 2 million people in the country displaced by conflict on the eastern front.

His latest project saw him documenting folk songs, often sung by internally displaced Ukrainians.

“What happens when a country is at war is that people tend to identify more directly with the symbolism of what their country culturally stands for,” he explains.

“So that means a lot of people returning to things such as national costume, a focus on the core elements of being Ukrainian.”

Neville arrived in Orikhovo-Vasylivka last autumn, where Lina’s grandmother was putting on a folk song recital in town.

Her parents then invited him to their house for tea and in their back garden he spotted Lina gathering plums in a traditional costume.

“The photograph is a kind of cocktail of Ukrainian symbols,” he says.

“Ukraine is a hugely abundant, fertile country; it has all sorts of minerals, vegetables, oil, sunflower fields, the most amazing pumpkins you’ve ever seen.”

The village is in the province of Donetsk, roughly an hour from the conflict in the Donbass region that began in March 2014.

“In eastern Ukraine, you have many people who have Russian relatives,” says Neville.

“It’s a very sad and disturbing conflict – you find whole families falling out with each other about who’s to blame for the war… every day, people are getting shot at and shelled. This is part of the reason I’m continuing to do work in Ukraine – I just want the fighting to stop.”

Source: The Guardian