Those Who Stayed

Tell me, Agata, how could I possibly take you to a meeting with a man whose wife and little daughter were raped right before his eyes?

Photographs and text by
Agata Grzybowska/ RATS Agency for Gazeta Wyborcza

Agata Grzybowska, a photojournalist from RATS Agency, went to Ukraine less than a month after the outbreak of war with Russia. She chose to focus on people who stayed in the country, who decided against leaving.

Five minutes after I had arrived in Lviv, the air raid sirens went off and I got stuck in a bomb shelter for another few hours…

‘If we’re gonna die, we want to die at home’.

Two years of war in Ukraine.
Heroism, strength, despair.
Text by Michał Olszewski, photos by Jakub Włodek / Agencja Wyborcza.pl
Since the first days of the Russian invasion, photojournalist Jakub Włodek from "Gazeta Wyborcza" has been documenting the lives of Ukrainians – their strength of will, resilience, heroism, as well as moments of despair and the unimaginable scale of destruction. More than the frontline, he is interested in the everyday life of Ukraine, which despite the enemy's overwhelming forces, refuses to surrender.
July 2022. Two weeks after a missile attack on Vinnytsia, the city is in shock. A Kalibr missile hit Peremohy Square, destroying surrounding buildings and killing 27 people. "The level of hatred towards Russians here is unimaginable," says Serhiy Morhunov, the mayor of Vinnytsia.
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On the eve of Christmas 2023, a road near Lviv. Ukrainians are preparing for another wartime holiday.
December 2023, Izium. Scrap metal collectors dismantle a furnace in former optical factory.
February 2023, Lviv. A typical day at the garrison church in Lviv. Soldiers and their loved ones bid farewell to those fallen on the frontline.
December 2022. Shelter in a children's home in Ternopil. At the onset of the war, children and staff moved to the basements: "The first days were terrifying, even though our neighbors supported us greatly. Entire families of staff members came here to support us in the most difficult moments because it was uncertainwhether we would need to gather and flee within minutes," recalls Inha Kubei, the center's director. Ternopil is one of the places where "Gazeta Wyborcza" provides humanitarian aid.
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January 2023, the Feast of the Epiphany in Mostyska. One of the residents immerses himself in icy water.
February 2022. The train station in Lviv, the first days of the war. It's the largest exodus of people in Europe since World War II. Approximately 50,000 refugees pass through platforms and waiting rooms within a day.
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December 2023, Kharkiv, Saltivka. A residential district in the northern part of Kharkiv, the most heavily affected area during the Russian invasion. Although a small portion of residents chose to return to their homes after repelling the Russians, the city authorities are repairing the damaged apartment blocks.
Autumn 2022, Mostyska. Residents prepare for another transport to the east. With the funds collected, they purchase food, clothing, fuel, and military equipment, which is sent to soldiers from Lviv brigades.
Summer 2022, Bratslav. Boarding school for the mentally and emotionally disturbed. War spares no one, especially those most vulnerable and disadvantaged in life. "Some of our wards are unfamiliar with the word 'war,' but they keenly sense the danger. The roar of airplanes or the whistling of rockets makes them very nervous. We have, for example, a hearing-impaired individual who feels vibrations. The passage of a low-flying aircraft is a shocking experience for her. And so, we live here, from one alarm to another," says Oleg Klimenko, the center's director.
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February 2023, downtown Lviv. Commerce outside the garrison church, where funeral ceremonies for Lviv soldiers take place. The candles are the best-selling items at the stall.
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Winter 2023, Ternopil. After successive Russian attacks on critical infrastructure, the city is engulfed in darkness. Authorities ration electricity, and apartments are illuminated by lamps powered by batteries.
Summer 2022. Krzysztof Muszak, a sniper from the Azov Battalion with Polish roots, has just returned to his hometown near Lviv. He spent the entire siege at the Azovstal facilities. He had a broken spine and shattered leg. After recovering, he intends to return to the front lines.
November 2022, outskirts of Izium. Stray dogs are a constant feature of the wartime landscape, playing among the ruins and remnants of shells. In the photo are the remnants of a Tochka-U missile shot down by anti-aircraft defense.
March 2022, Lviv - Mostyska railway route. Immediately after the outbreak of the war, local residents organized a canteen where refugees can have tea and eat after several hours of train travel.
February 2022, Lviv. Marine veterans teach Ukrainian volunteers first aid techniques.
Summer 2022, Zhytomyr. Youth play basketball near a school bombed in the early days of the war.
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December 2023, Kyiv. Ukraine tries to live normally, but the war has become ingrained in the landscape and is visible at every turn.
March 2022, Lviv, Lychakiv Cemetery. Funeral of a 25-year-old Ukrainian soldier who died in battles near Kyiv.
February 2023, Kupiansk. Another shipment from "Gazeta Wyborcza" readers has reached the towns destroyed by the Russians.
December 2023. Doctors from the Polish Medical Mission are seeing patients in Izium. "Neuropathologist, ophthalmologist, dentist! Help us, people! We're here like on zero," shouts someone from the crowd waiting for consultations. "Zero" in military terminology refers to the front line.
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November 2022. Petropavlivka, a village near Kupiansk, not far from the front line. "Gazeta Wyborcza" arrived there with aid shortly after the areas were liberated by Ukrainians. Since then, despite fierce Russian attacks, the front hasn't budged.
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December 2023, Mykola Kolomyich, a painter from Kharkiv, in his studio Aza Nizi Maza. Since the first days of the war, the artist has been conducting classes with children who have not left the city.
December 2023, Slatyne. Mrs. Irena, a nurse from the health center, amidst the ruins of her home destroyed by incendiary shells.
February 2023, Hodyni. The grave of Anton, a soldier who died in the battles for Kyiv.