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To Die In Prison Or Die At War - It Makes No Difference


by Svet Jacqueline

Published July 2024

As you walk into the prison facility, barbed wire lines the towering concrete walls against an overcast sky. The scene reminds you of other POW camps like those during WWII. However, the reality for Russian captives living in the camp is significantly more humane than anything in the 1940s. "In Ukraine, a European country, we keep prisoners of war in a humane way -- despite the fact that they are trying to kill us,” one guard says.

Prisoner exchanges have become a regular feature of the ongoing war in Ukraine, and for Kyiv, they must continue. Russia has demonstrated apathy for human life since the full-scale military operation began in February 2022, as they continue to throw men, without adequate preparation, into war. Many describe their time in captivity as an improvement over their lives in Russia or on the frontlines. They don’t care about the outcome of the war and they express sentiments of indifference about their future. “What do I have to go back to?” The prisoners echo the shared sentiment that it makes no difference if they die in prison or at war.

Svet Jacqueline

Svet Jacqueline earned a Bachelor of Science in Photography from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. For several years she did commercial work, freelancing for Sony Records, and managing studios in Los Angeles. During the pandemic, she began documenting the Black Lives Matter movement and published her first book, 100 Days of Protest. In 2021, she split her time between Los Angeles, Mexico, and Texas documenting migration at the border and the cycle of poverty on Skid Row where her work won first place in the International Photography Awards and NPPA Best of Photojournalism. When Russia invaded Ukraine, she began focusing on visual stories around childhood trauma in conflict zones. She is a photo essayist in the book, Relentless Courage: Ukraine and the World at War and was a panelist on “Urgency: Ukraine” at The Bronx Documentary Center. All About Photo named her one of the best modern photographers in their September issue and CNN featured her as one of ‘12 women and nonbinary photographers capturing 2022’. She has participated in the “Eddie Adams Workshop,” and the “Missouri Photo Workshop” and received The Yunghi Grant for her ongoing work, “Too Young To Fight.” She is a member of Women Photojournalists of Washington, the National Press Photographers Association, and is currently represented by ZUMA Press.

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