A Ukrainian photojournalist on how the war hit home for her

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Since Feb. 24, I have been in many homes with glass on the beds. I wonder if there are now shards in the the bedroom where I grew up, too? I can almost feel the tiny pieces of glass in my throat. How am I supposed to explain all this to my colleagues now? We type Vinnytsia into Google Maps and drive west in silence. All I think about is wanting to be with my family.

“Three children among the dead,” reads a statement from the state emergency service. A pixelated photo shows a dead girl in pink, her body torn. The leg of another victim can be seen lying next to her. The child’s mother is in intensive care. Who will tell her about her daughter’s death if she survives?

11:33 a.m.: I call my friend Olena. She had been very worried when her father and grandparents were evacuated from occupied Irpin at the beginning of the full-scale war. That same day, another family died while trying to flee. Olena knows how it feels when death gets that close to your family. She now says: “Julia, calm down, your parents are alive!” She says I should ignore any further videos or heavy photos from Vinnytsia. After a few moments, I scroll through Telegram again. There are images of injured people bleeding.

Driving through the village, I see a stork’s nest on a house and remember the folk wisdom that these animals bring health and happiness to us. We drive by. I think about how distant thoughts like that are now.

12:07 p.m.: My friend Ruslan calls. “Why are you crying now? Nothing happened to your parents. Do you cry every time someone dies? It’s not like you can change anything now, anyway.” He has been a soldier in this war for four years now. He serves as an officer. His sense of detachment helps him. But it doesn’t work for me because I’m an artist. My emotions are extremely important to me. Except that now I’m no longer in control of them. The girl lying dead in the square is named Liza. She was four years old.

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