Ukraine war: Ten photos taken before lives changed forever

Life changed in an instant in Ukraine on 24 February 2022, when Russia launched its full-scale invasion.

Here, 10 Ukrainians share the last photo they took on their mobile phones before their country changed forever – and talk about what has happened to them since.

Selfies and walks

Angelina Chaban poses for a photo in KramatorskIMAGE SOURCE,ANGELINA CHABAN

This was taken on 23 February 2022 and captures my walk around my district. It was good weather that day, but there was a feeling that something might happen.

I took the picture because of the nice weather and because I was looking good. It’s in the countryside on the outskirts of Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine. It’s my favourite place.

In the first weeks after Russia’s invasion I stayed at home, but on 7 April, we moved west to Vinnytsia and then to Kyiv.

When I look at the picture, it feels like it is from a different life.

Angelina Chaban, 24

Working from home with my cat

Fura lies in the sun in KyivIMAGE SOURCE,ANNA

I was working at home on 22 February, taking calls with my cat next to me, just enjoying life. I took the picture because my cat looked adorable.

Her name is Fura, which means truck. My sister rescued her from the side of a highway when she was a kitten.

There was some media coverage at the time suggesting something was going to happen, and people were talking about it. But I was hopeful that if there was an escalation, it wouldn’t affect the civilian population.

On the 25th we decided to leave Kyiv. We brought the cat with us and moved to north-west Ukraine. In the summer, we returned.

Anna, 32

Pre-school projects

Ihor's daughter Marta holds a candle she madeIMAGE SOURCE,IHOR BEZRUKYI

My daughter, Marta, made this candle in pre-school and brought it home on 22 February. I remember being happy that the children were being creative and making things, and I was proud of her because it was so pretty and well made.

I didn’t know then what would happen next.

My daughter will turn seven in March but she hasn’t been to pre-school since 24 February last year. My wife won’t let her.

Initially, I was really worried that if there was a war my family and I would have to separate. But we’re still here.

Ihor Bezrukyi, 51

Dinner and drinks with friends

Lera Dubrovska enjoys dinner with friends before the invasionIMAGE SOURCE,VALERIIA DUBROVSKA

It was just an ordinary day and after work I decided to pop into my friend’s bar to have a couple of drinks. Afterwards, they took me out for some beer, local food and vodka made from horseradish root.

I don’t remember exactly what I was feeling but I know we were cracking jokes. We did talk about the possibility of a Russian invasion, but then all together we were like: “Nah”.

A couple of days after the invasion, I met two of the guys I was out with that evening. We were all helping the military to build barricades around the centre of Odesa. Looking back, it was a spectacular sight – dozens of hipsters lugging sandbags.

When I look at the photo now, I feel nostalgic for the person I used to be.

Valeriia Dubrovska, 28

A long weekend in Lviv

The view over Lviv the weekend before Russia's invasionIMAGE SOURCE,SOFIIA DOROSHENKO

A friend had come to visit me in Lviv on her birthday and it was the first long weekend off I’d had in a while.

We did a tour of the city and went to see a newly-opened panoramic view from the Church of Sts Olha and Elizabeth. We were the last visitors there that day, so they asked us to close the door as we left.

I felt pure happiness in those days. I was happy with my friends and my work. But there was also something in the air, a sense that something inevitable was coming and that everything would change.

Nowadays, the viewing point we looked out of is closed.

I am still in Lviv, but I rarely take photos with my phone. Now I take camera photos to document what is happening.

Sofiia Doroshenko, 30

Family days at home

Ievegen's baby and dog lie on the floor at their home in DniproIMAGE SOURCE,IEVGEN PEREVERZIEV

I took this photo of my first child, Yaroslav, on 19 February at our home in Dnipro. He was only six months old at the time. My dog is also in it – she’s a big friend of my son.

We left our home on 24 February. I drove for three days to the western part of Ukraine to bring my family to a safer place.

Our home in Dnipro is still there but no-one is living in it. I had to ask friends to clean it because when we left the fridge was still full of food.

I used to own a travel agency but now tourism is completely dead. Now, I volunteer with the army, bringing cars for the military from the border to the central part of Ukraine. I’m always driving, driving, driving.

In this period of a child’s life they grow so quickly. Sometimes I’m away for 10 days and when I come back I find he has learned something new.

Ievgen Pereverziev, 40

A semi-final match

Group photo of Boris Shelahurov's football teamIMAGE SOURCE,BORIS SHELAHUROV

We posed for a team photo after losing in the semi-finals of a local football tournament in Kharkiv. I scored the only goal in that game for our team.

Even though we lost, we were happy because we had played well. I didn’t believe at the time that a war would happen.

I want to play another tournament with my team.

Borys Shelahurov, 28

A driving lesson and a coffee cup

A picture of Oleksandr's coffee cupIMAGE SOURCE,OLEKSANDR POPENKO

I took this picture of a “Paris I love you” coffee cup on 22 February 2022 after a driving lesson. It was part of a photo project I’ve been working on.

We were living in Bucha and spent the first two weeks after the invasion in the basement of a pre-school that was close to our building. I lost 10kg in those two weeks.

We escaped Russian occupation by foot on 10 March, walking 22km (14 miles). When we reached the first Ukrainian checkpoint, I nearly cried.

I’m still trying to do my photo project despite the war. I still haven’t passed my driving test.

Oleksandr Popenko, 29

Fooling around with friends

Andrii hugs a reindeer decoration outside the Lviv National Art GalleryIMAGE SOURCE,ANDRII RYBKA

I work at the Lviv National Art Gallery, the Potocki Palace. Every year, the museum puts up these cheesy winter decorations until the spring and I always make fun of them.

Everyone in the city was talking about the possibility of war. A couple of days before the 24th, not knowing what might happen of course, I asked my friend to take a picture of me with the decorations – to take the edge off.

I’m still working at the museum but everything is different now. It feels like 100 years have passed, we have lived through so much.

Andrii Rybka, 43

Children play at the National Art Museum in KyivIMAGE SOURCE,ZHENYA MOLYAR

This picture was taken at the presentation of a new book in the National Art Museum in Kyiv. While the adults were talking, my children and my friend’s children sat down to play a game.

On 6 March, I drove with my children to the Hungarian border, left the car there and continued on foot.

I think about how carefree the children are in this photo and how, so soon afterwards, they were forced to make such a disturbing journey – driving for a long time without knowing where they were going, as their mothers cried.

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