Graduation is a special time of year for any student. It's filled with what are supposed to be joyous memories and excitement for the future. But this year, in Ukraine, graduation for students has taken on a new meaning. Since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24, life has changed. And one photographer wanted to immortalize this moment in history for students with a haunting set of graduation photos.
Before the war, Ukrainian photographer Stanislav Senyk spent his time photographing weddings, engagements, and other special moments. Since the start of the war, his work has taken on an even deeper meaning as he looks to highlight Ukrainian culture and conduct workshops with proceeds going toward the war effort. He's also interested in ensuring that future generations never forget what is currently happening in his country, so he put out a call to students in Chernihiv to see if anyone would be interested in graduation photos.
Forty students participated in the effort, which saw them posing with their graduation sashes in the rubble of bombed-out buildings. The haunting photographs are a reminder of the huge effort these children had to make in order to continue their education during the war. Senyk told Reuters that while the children faced disappointment in not having a graduation ceremony or a prom, they'd grown stronger from their current circumstances.
As they pose in disabled tanks, ruined buildings, and burnt-out cars, the students transmit a sense of defiance to continue on with their lives and to move forward. For Senyk, the experience was all about using his creative skills to show the world the reality of life for these graduating seniors.
“The main idea of this photoshoot is to save the history for these students,” he tells My Modern Met. “In the future, when these children will have their own children, they can show what is going on now. We must remember what Russia did in Ukraine in order to never allow this to happen again.”