Interview with Tetiana and Natalia from Druzhkivka, featuring in 'In Ukraine: As My Heart Yearns' curated by Ira Lupu, part of the free Wembley Park A

Tetiana and Natalia from Druzhkivka

Tetyana Il`ina, 55 y., Druzhkivka (Donetsk region), private entrepreneur. Nataliya Maksymenko, 51 y., Druzhkivka (Donetsk region), the owner of an exotic garder

Interviewed on April 17, 2022

Tetyana and Nataliya have been friends for 20 years.

After the full-scale invasion of Russia into Ukraine began, the women spent a month in the city, hiding from explosions. The decision to leave was extremely hard for both of them. When they were leaving Druzhkivka, they were leaving their entire life there.

[Tetyana’s story]

In 2014 we lived through this hell for the first time. We did not evacuate then, stayed at home. My daughter gave birth to a son that year. Now he is autistic, as everything has its price…

Now we are living through the same hell for the second time. The first rocket flew above my house, another one fell a hundred metres further from the building. I did not go down to the basement, because if the house fell, I would not be able to get out from there. Living in constant stress was unbearable, so I decided to leave.

[Natalia’s story]

In Druzhkivka I left a part of myself, my garden. It was a dream that took me 30 years to put it to life. I put all my love into it. It is good if at least something stayed, then I would try to save it somehow. And if not? I’m not sure I will have enough energy to start over.

During the explosions I was hiding in the basement. I always took a basket with two cats. I could not eat, I drank only a cup of tea during the day. After the second attack I began thinking where to go. My son stayed in town; my friend and I went to Kramatorsk, because there had been no evacuation trains from Druzhkivka. We were on the road for more than 24 hours, with lights out, and we were worried all the time. When we heard the news about the bombing of Kramatorsk railway, we just cried. We realized we also could have been there.

In Ukraine: As My Heart Yearns curated by Ira Lupu

“In Ukraine: As My Heart Yearns,” is a continuation of an international photography series started in March 2022 showcasing Ukraine’s past and present and includes pastoral archival imagery and recent refugee portraiture by Yana Kononova, Ira Lupu, Paraska Plytka-Horytsvit and Elena Subach and Helen Zhgir. It also features the work of internationally acclaimed documentary photographer Yelena Yemchuk.