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ZEKE Award: Honorable Mention

Elderly Lives frozen in Conflict: Ukraine’s War

Paula Bronstein | Ukraine

Organization: self

A hand painted portrait Anna, a respected leader is seen on a war torn building in Avdiivka, Eastern Ukraine.

 My images tell a story about the effects of this conflict on the fragile elderly who are isolated, vulnerable, their lives frozen in conflict trapped by a static war. Ukraine has the highest proportion of elderly affected by war in the world. Nearly a third of the country’s 3.4 million people in need of assistance are over 60 years of age. In 2014, when violence broke out many young people left the region while the elderly stayed behind just barely surviving. The elderly are often reluctant to leave their homes and the last to flee from danger, abandoned without resources of family care. Their isolated villages are dangerously close to the fighting, a 500K contact line that stretches along the Donbas region. The stress is overwhelming for these pensioners, listening to the daily bursts of shooting and shelling that often damage their homes. They have exhausted resources after restrictive government measures many losing access to their pensions.  In order to collect their pension, elderly travel across the conflict-torn borders of the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine which is a difficult journey, waiting in long lines.

This project was made possible with support  by The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and a Getty Images Grant 

Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s new president has many challenges currently facing him. His first priority is the prolonged war against Russian separatists in the east, his hope is to reach a cease-fire in a conflict that has claimed 13,000 lives and dragged on for over five years.

Over the years my photography has taken me to many conflict zones. It has taught me to be a dedicated humanitarian photographer, hoping to raise awareness on the long-term effects of armed conflict that deal with the human, economic and political issues. My book “Afghanistan: Between Hope and Fear, published in August, 2016, documents Afghans living against a backdrop of war. My photographic approach is to bring the attention back to many silent victims of war who have no voice and getting people to relate.

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