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Too Young to Fight
by Svet Jacqueline
Published April 2023
“Too Young To Fight” focuses on the lives of Ukrainian children since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. The stories are heartbreaking.
I first arrived a week after the invasion started. I was thrown into the worst parts of this conflict. I spent my mornings at funerals, my afternoons watching fathers say a tearful goodbye to their families boarding trains, and my nights in bunkers listening to the echoes of artillery fire.
I have now spent over five months documenting this cruel and unnecessary attack on Ukraine—and democracy. The landscape of this war changes daily. As of September 2022, over 1,000 children had been killed in Ukraine—some have been tortured and their bodies burned. Others have sustained injuries from shelling and are spending birthdays and holidays in hospitals getting fitted for prosthetics. Thousands are accepting a new life of living underground dreaming of a day when they can go back to school—or just to dance class. The rest—those who account for the over five million refugees who were forced to flee since the war started—are doing their best to assimilate in places that will never feel like home.
The beautiful thing about children is the joy they find in the most unlikely of circumstances. They embody the Ukrainian spirit in its purest form. They run, play, and laugh in the face of the evil that has become their reality.
As they grow older, some of them will be drafted into the war as young adults. Some will help raise the siblings that their parents died to protect and some will never return to their childhood homes or cities again. I will continue to photograph their stories—the ones that capture the innocence that war destroys. As the world starts to turn away from the headlines from the war, I ask that we recognize that the shadows of this period in history will follow us, reflected through the eyes and stories of Ukrainian children as they find a more permanent identity.
Named by All About Photo as one of the best modern photographers, Svet Jacqueline documented the Black Lives Matter movement in her book 100 Days of Protest, migration at the U.S.-Mexico border and the cycle of poverty on Skid Row. After Russia invaded Ukraine, she focused on visual stories around childhood trauma in conflict zones and is a photo essayist in Relentless Courage: Ukraine and the World At War.