A Photo Exhibition That Should Be Shown in the West: Irina Lashkevich’s “Look Into the Eyes of Donbass”

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



Donbass appears in the top news more and more seldom. People got used to daily reports about shelling. In 4 years of war, people became tired from sympathising and helping Donbass. Not everyone, not always, but in general.

Thanks to the deputy of the State Duma of Russia Sergey Mironov, the exhibition of the photoproject Look into the Eyes of Donbass took place in Moscow. There are people who are not indifferent, who weren’t too tired to help, too tired to do good. The eyes of our Donbass children left a huge impression on Sergey Mironov. He intends to help all the children from the project.

Now the program of help, which won’t be a one-off or just PR, is being prepared – a clear schedule of help in order to remove the trace of war from their eyes, to facilitate their fate, and for some of them – to even be saved. All children, the portraits of which are presented at the exhibition, now live in zones of shelling. Every day their lives are subjected to danger.

“I want all of from to survive to the end of war so much,” said Sergey Mironov. I am asked questions very often: “Where did you film? How did you film? What did the children say?”

I will focus on a few stories, so that everything becomes immediately clear to all. The zones of shelling are zones where shells regularly arrive. One part of Donetsk hears “boom”, and the second part “receives” shells daily.

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The children from our project look absolutely adult. War left an indelible mark on their destiny. They saw death, they know what to do if bombing starts. All of them honestly admit that it is impossible to get used to war.

“We are afraid always,” say the fingerlings. I always call them fingerlings. A fingerling is a small little fish. They are my remarkable little fish. In 2014, when Donetsk was bombed day and night, I was in “Trauma” (the republic’s traumatologic center). I recorded an interview with the manager of the children’s unit.

“And in 2014 there was panic, during the first shelling. People were leaving Donetsk, saving children. Doctors with their families were also leaving. I sent my wife to Russia, but I stayed behind, perfectly understanding that I have no right to leave. The horror began. We were brought children with fragmental and bullet wounds daily. In the first days of war I had a shock. How to heal? We didn’t know how to heal children, we didn’t study military medicine, and this was the domain of military medicine.

I remember the first child, who was 16 years old. The shell arrived and the shrapnel cut up their feet. The operation lasted for about 6 hours. We didn’t save… We weren’t able, there was a lack of knowledge. The shrapnel wounds of children aren’t measles, appendicitis, or jaundice – the usual diseases in peaceful life.

What did we do? We plunged into Military Medicine books, carefully and quickly learned everything. Then it was simply a stream of wounded children. We learned immediately, and saved practically all of them. In one month we became military surgeons…”

Just a month ago the doctors of Donetsk “Trauma” again saved children. Ten-year-old boys from the Petrovsky district of Donetsk found a shell, threw a stone at it, and it blew up. One boy died on the spot, Donetsk doctors saved two others. Again these scary words – the shrapnel wound of a child.

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In the Oktyabrsky district there is a school. In 2014-2015 this district was bombed mercilessly. The school was never closed. Moreover, the children believed that the thick walls of the school will save them, they didn’t skip any classes at all. What did they do during bombardments – all children went to the corridor and prayed.

They, children from the zones of shelling, know prayers. They put their hopes on God and their mothers, which will save them and think of a way out. Many children know what hunger is. They describe how mother divided a packet of wheat grits for three days, how she brought tasty bread. Bread was a luxury in 2014, when all of Donetsk was on the verge of extinction.

The 12-year-old boy from Aleksandrovka somehow quietly describes: “The bombing started, the glass shattered, nobody else was at home. The roof of the building started burning…” The child was in the room with a schoolmate, they were playing. The boy covered the girl with his body. He received shrapnel wounds. Here are such fingerlings…

They will never speak to their own children about war: “It is too scary!” they say. Remember how reluctantly our grandfathers and grandmothers spoke about war. They protected our souls from shocks. My little remarkable fingerlings from the zones of shelling… I love all of you. Survive, live, you are the future of Donbass. You are the salt and hope of Donbass.

Thanks to Mironov Sergey Mikhaylovich for his non-indifference, absence of fatigue, and perception of the pain of Donbass.

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Tomorrow [November 28th – ed] I come back to Donetsk. The exhibition “Look into the Eyes of Donbass” ended, but it is only the beginning. The beginning of saving my native, Donetsk fingerlings…

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