Ukraine calling

Perou in Ukraine: June – part two

"Photographing in Ukraine has pushed me to find a different approach to my photography. "

At the beginning of June, photographer and long-time ZOOT contributor Perou visited Ukraine to document the second medical convoy organized by Medics4Ukraine, World Extreme Medicine’s effort to deliver critical medical supplies from the UK to Ukrainian hospitals and to soldiers on the front lines. While there, Perou found the devastation the Russian army had left in its wake.

Perou gives us a glimpse of the situation in Ukraine through his eyes. Below is a selection of his images from his second trip as well as excerpts from ZOOT`s conversation with the photographer.

Photos by Perou

Interview by Michaela Doyle


Kyiv, cancer hospital

“Svitlana Chernyak and her husband. Although #Medics4Ukraine are principally involved in delivering medicine and equipment for the frontline … they also try to help with requests for specific medication across the whole country. We start the day at a hospital, meeting patients who are directly benefitting from the supplies of hydrocortisone that WEM have supplied. … Svitlana (58) is recovering from a tumor and pituitary cancer.”


What was it like photographing at the cancer hospital, children’s hospital and trauma hospital? How are these people surviving these simultaneous devastating experiences?

I’ve never photographed people in a hospital before, and I was very conscious I didn’t want to be exploitative of their condition. In the same way I don’t like to photograph “photogenic” homeless people. As a photographer we TAKE photographs from people. I prefer to MAKE photographs.
Often, when I am able to, I give people photographs I have done of them, to balance the “taking”.
Some of the people I was photographing were clearly very ill. (Some I didn’t publish.) I felt awkward and even guilty. I have never been good with dealing with death or illness. I don’t speak Ukrainian so I wasn’t able to speak freely, as I usually would, with the patients I photographed. Although people translate for us.
To be honest, I have spent years mainly photographing rich, famous and beautiful people in nice lighting. Photographing in Ukraine has pushed me to find a different approach to my photography. I feel like I’m “on-the-job-training”, and it’s a steep learning curve.
Hopefully the pictures I am making are sensitive and thought provoking. I am not trying to impose my creative vision on people (like usual).

“Valentyna Drozd, one day before going home. Valentina (55) will also need a life-long supply of hydrocortisone.”


A doctor reviewing Yulia Rozputya’s scan results.
“Yulia Rozputya (44) has hydrocephalus and intracranial pressure.”
Yulia and her mother.

Do you get the sense that the kids understand what is going on outside the hospital? 

This I do not know. But I guess they knew when their hospital was bombed by the Russians and they had to relocate to the basement of the hospital. It must have been REALLY frightening.

Kyiv, children´s hospital

Some of the WEM team waiting outside the children’s hospital.


Dr. Pavlov Plavskyi of the children’s hospital showing Prof. Mark Hannaford of WEM some of his patients’ scans. “Next we visited the paediatric hospital that the Russians deliberately targeted at the beginning of the war. …Here, we met extreme dude Pavlov Plavskyi: the head of the paediatric neurosurgery division.”


“Ilona is 7. She came to hospital with posterior fossa tumour.”
Ilona with her mother.


“Platon is 2 and a half. He’s being treated for hydrocephalus. Some of the children in this hospital have been treated in other hospitals first and have needed to be transferred here for further surgery, or sometimes to fix surgeries they’ve had in less well resourced (and staffed) hospitals.”


“Bogdan is 4 yers old. He has epilepsy and has had a temporal lobectomy.”
Bogdan and his mother.


“Nina is 7 and she has spina bifida. I photographed her as she was sleeping. It’s difficult to photograph people in hospital and especially kids. I was trying to do this as sensitively as possible.”


Pavlov and one of his patients.


“Rostyslav is 6. He has had a posterior fossa tumour removed.”
Rostyslav with his mother.


“Nikita and her mum. Nikita is 18 months old. She has congenital malformations of the brain and face and hydrocephalus. She and her mum are smiling because tomorrow they’re going home.”


WEM says goodbye to Dr. Pavlov. “He was such a lovely, brilliant guy, and it was an honour to be shown around by him, hear what challenges they are facing and see him with his patients. After the Russians bombed the hospital, the doctors stayed and continued to treat patients in the basement of the building.”


WEM and #Medics4Ukraine have a list of equipment and medicine that the children’s hospital needs, and they will try to source and fund its delivery. To support these efforts, you can learn more and access the gofundme link to donate at the WEM website.

Many images and all caption quotes appeared originally on Perou’s blog entries from 7-14 June. Read more about him and his trip to Ukraine at his blog, Perous Secret Diary.

Check out ZOOT’s Perou in Ukraine – Part 1, Part 3 and Part 4 for more photos and commentary on his trip.


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