Ukraine calling

Perou in Ukraine: June – part four

"It’s really their stories that they shared with us that hit hard."


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


Photo by Professor Mark Hannaford. “Travel day. Returned to Lviv. … Here’s me doing dress up. I’m not a war correspondent or a press photographer. Doesn’t matter how experienced you are or how careful, being a frontline war correspondent is gambling with your life, especially with the Russians, because they target journalists as well as children’s hospitals. I should probably get one of these that just says PEROU.”




A banner in support of the defenders of Mariupol, the site of one of the deadliest offensives by Russian troops during the war. The Azovstal Iron and Steel Works was one of the last hold-outs of the Ukrainian forces during the siege of Mariupol.
In Lviv, a sign that translates to “Like dew on the sun: losses of the occupiers”, counting the losses to the Russian military. “Keeping count. A bit of a Russian fighter jet on display in Lviv town square. Hard to verify the numbers, but sure enough both sides are taking lots casualties.
Holy Trinity Day / Green Holidays celebrations in Lviv. “Green day. It’s also a national holiday in Ukraine and the streets are FULL of people in Lviv. I mean, they’d be full anyway because there’s double the amount of people there since the war started and displaced so many from their homes. Again, easy to imagine there’s not a war on here but this caught my eye: starting them young.”
“It says ‘it’s not bad if you miss – it’s only bad if you don’t shoot!'”

What did it feel like to be prepared to photograph soldiers at the trauma hospital and be met with ordinary civilians?

I was getting frustrated that I couldn’t photograph injured soldiers because that is what I wanted to do. I thought that would be a compelling story and set of photographs. So I was pushing quite hard, against sensible opinion, to go closer to the frontline to get the photos.
When I thought about it, I realised that actually, soldiers are expected to be injured, and although that’s tragic, it’s not so shocking—however shocking the injuries they receive are.
What IS shocking is civilians getting caught up in the war and injured. And their injuries are sometimes worse because they haven’t been wearing body armour.
It’s really their stories that they shared with us that hit hard, as well as seeing their injuries. It seems so totally unjust that these life-changing injuries and loss of their loved ones has been imposed on them.
They were just getting on with their lives when some little man with ego problems decides he wants to “make Russia great again” and sends his army to devastate and crush the neighbours.

“Vyacheslav Andriichuk. Started with another WEM training day for medics in Lviv and then Mark and I split to visit a trauma hospital where there are people injured by the war from all over the country.”
“Vyacheslav is 48. He’s from the Severodoneck, Donbas region. He was going to a shelter and got caught by artillery. He lost his wife and doesn’t know if his relatives are still alive.”


Maxim Savchenko Mykolaiv.
“Maxim is from south Ukraine. He is 35 years old. He was a chef. One night he got up to pee as his house was struck with missiles, killing his girlfriend and blowing half off both his legs. He managed to use makeshift tourniquets to prevent himself from bleeding out and was found in the mud outside his house by a military medic on patrol the next morning.”
“It was almost a blessing that I couldn’t speak to these guys in Ukrainian because I wouldn’t know what to say. I wanted to say what amazing eyes he has and how handsome he was, but I would have expected him to say, ‘yeah great: I’ve had both my feet blown off’. It felt like Maxim was trying to smile for my photos: literally putting brave face on.”


Artem Smirnoff.

“I’m sorry if you find these photographs as hard to look at, as I found to take. Civilians are getting maimed and killed EVERY day in Ukraine. If the Russians didn’t start this, there would be no war. If the Russians stopped, the war would stop.”


How did your environment (in London and on social media) react to your reportage?

If I judge the value of what I’m doing by likes on my Instagram posts, I’m fucked. If I post a picture of Marilyn Manson on my Instagram, I get 3,000 likes. If I post a good picture of someone else considered “popular”, I get 1,000 likes. If I post a picture of a Ukrainian kid in hospital (at the time of writing this) I get 276 likes. One of the reasons I hate anti-social media.
I guess I’m not known for this kind of work, so it has to find its audience. I don’t shoot for anyone else: I only shoot for myself. I give zero shits about what people think of me and my work, so that’s liberating.
But I hope people will see the photos that I’m doing in Ukraine and hear my first-person account of what I’m seeing. To redress the balance of bullshit out there.
Thank you, ZOOT, for spreading the pictures and words further.
Mainly, the people commenting on my pictures shot in Ukraine are people that like my stance and my work, so there have only been a few Russian nuts and conspiracy theorists writing some offensive words, which I delete and block. I do see a lot of nonsense and lies on other people’s social media, and it drives me insane. The war of lies that needs to be fought hard.

“Took a train from Lviv to Poland. SvT met us and drove us to the fire station that kindly hosts us for 3 hours of sleep, then SvT drove us to the airport and we took two flights to get back to Heathrow.”
Mark and Luca.
“Stephan and Nazarri, WEM Ukrainian division. Top dudes and now our good friends in Ukraine.”
Luca and Mark.
“Two dudes from WEM and some soppy bollox SOPPY not SOAPY!”
“Team photo. L to R, Andreii, Stephan, Luca, Mark, Nazarii. WEM and #Medics4Ukraine work continues, and you can donate to help them help others. My return to Ukraine is already booked. Slava Ukraini.”


To support Medics4Ukraine’s 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 2 and Part 3 for more photos and commentary on his trip.

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