ukraine civilians photography
Wilting flowers near a damaged florist in Irpin, which was previously occupied by Russian troops. All photos: Julia Kochetova

Heartbreaking Photos Show What Ukrainian People Have Left Behind

“In each bedroom, I see mine,” Ukrainian photojournalist Julia Kochetova tells VICE World News. “In the mess of total war, I see how valuable things are not important anymore.”

Julia Kochetova is a 28-year-old Ukrainian photojournalist and filmmaker who has been documenting the Russian invasion.

She has interviewed and photographed civilians fleeing areas near Kyiv such as Bucha that were occupied by Russian forces and that are now revealing scenes of true horror as those troops withdraw.

As a Ukrainian photographer documenting a war in her own country, Kochetova has felt a special emotional connection to the conflict’s victims.

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“Filming in destroyed residential buildings in Kyiv, small damaged houses in Ukrainian villages, it always makes me feel like an invader,” she said over WhatsApp.

“I’m entering someone's bedroom without knocking on the door. Pillow with window fragments on it, kids toy or favourite book with burnt pages, portrait in a frame… Someone has been living, dreaming, and loving here. And now it’s littered with glass pieces and would never be the same.”

She continued: “As a Ukrainian, in each bedroom, I see mine. In the mess of total war, I see what people left and how valuable things are not important anymore.”

An elderly woman shelters under a blanket after being evacuated from Irpin, near Kyiv, last month.

An elderly woman shelters under a blanket after being evacuated from Irpin, near Kyiv, last month.

An icon sits near a Molotov cocktail at a checkpoint outside Kyiv.

An icon sits near a Molotov cocktail at a checkpoint outside Kyiv.

A damaged Ukrainian flag lies on the ground close to a destroyed checkpoint in Irpin.

A damaged Ukrainian flag lies on the ground close to a destroyed checkpoint in Irpin.

Elderly people waiting for a bus after being evacuated from Irpin.

Elderly people waiting for a bus after being evacuated from Irpin.

A destroyed building in Dachne village, near Odesa. At least one person died when the area was hit by a Russian missile.

A destroyed building in Dachne village, near Odesa. At least one person died when the area was hit by a Russian missile.

A book with Lenin's portrait lies on the ground following a strike against residential buildings in Kyiv in March.

A book with Lenin's portrait lies on the ground following a strike against residential buildings in Kyiv in March.

People shelter in a Kyiv Metro station at the start of the war.

People shelter in a Kyiv Metro station at the start of the war.

A bomb shelter in Odesa.

A bomb shelter in Odesa.

Kira, a combat media who had no experience of first aid before the war started, on an evacuation route to Kyiv.

Kira, a combat media who had no experience of first aid before the war started, on an evacuation route to Kyiv.

Stigmata on a religious icon in an administrative building next to a cathedral in Odesa.

Stigmata on a religious icon in an administrative building next to a cathedral in Odesa.

The body of a Ukrainian civilian in Irpin.

The body of a Ukrainian civilian in Irpin.