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Victoria Ivleva, 66, Russian photographer who settled in Kiev

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Russian photographer Victoria Ivleva couldn’t stand the lies and war propaganda.

In the midst of a fiery war, he chose to move from Moscow to Kiev.

– No words can describe the extreme shame I feel for being here as a Russian, she says.

Victoria Ivleva, 66, is one of Russia’s most famous photojournalists. During her professional life she has dealt with wars and conflicts and she has also photographed the Chernobyl reactor after the accident. Her photos have also been published by the media world and also exhibited in Sweden.

In addition to journalism, she volunteered for human rights and also made herself known as a critique of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A week after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he decided to leave his home in Moscow and move to Kiev. Previously, the journey would have been easy, with night trains or direct flights. She now she was forced to fly via Istanbul and Budapest and then the overland route.

RockedBuzz reaches Victoria Ivleva by telephone. She is in a friend’s apartment near Sofia Cathedral in the center of Kiev. Just after eight o’clock in the evening, the night curfew went into effect and she covered the windows with heavy curtains so that the light does not go out, according to the orders of the authorities.

– Like many others, I had never counted on this invasion. But once that happened, it was natural to travel. I am an old friend from Ukraine, have been here many times and have worked with refugees here, she says in fluent English.

What did the Ukrainian border guards say when they saw your Russian passport?

– Anything. They just stamped it and greeted me.

What’s it like to live in Kiev now?

– The other day, the bomb alarm went off all night. We had to stay under cover, a music studio in a basement across the courtyard, until morning. We were thirteen people over there. But most of the time we can stay in the apartment. Then we watch movies or read books, do ordinary things. Unfortunately it is difficult to meet due to the curfew.

What do you notice about the war?

Last night a residential building very close to where I live was bombed. Next to it there was a factory, maybe it was the one you wanted to meet. I went out and saw the devastation. The merchants who had shops on the ground floor, trying to save as little as possible from their supplies … from women’s bags and clothes and what they sold. I thought: why has this quiet little life been ruined? For who?

full screenVictoria Ivleva Photos: private full screenView of Kiev. Photo: https://www.facebook.com/victoria.ivlevayorke

“Extreme shame”

What are your friends in Russia saying about your being in Ukraine?

– Only the people closest to me knew about my plans in advance. But I see that I get nice reactions on Facebook.

What is it like to be in Ukraine right now, as a Russian?

– Extremely ashamed. No words can describe that feeling. Seeing what my country is doing here is extremely painful. It is a feeling that I have never experienced before, a deep anger towards my compatriots, our soldiers and leaders. And contempt.

How are you treated by the Ukrainian people as a Russian?

– Nobody told me a bad word. I feel love and friendship. As a photographer, I am waiting for accreditation to get a job. Maybe it will take a while, because I’m Russian. It wouldn’t be unreasonable. But I can still work. I meet people and tell their stories my Facebook page.

FULL SCREEN DOWN INTO THE SHELTER. Photo: https://www.facebook.com/victoria.ivlevayorke

Why do so many Russians support Putin?

– For ten percent, maybe it’s the economy, which has been pretty good so far. The rest depends on propaganda. There are sentiments among the Russian people that Putin understood and was able to exploit. A feeling of being oppressed in the world. Imperial dreams.

It sounds a bit like revenge in Germany after the First World War.

– Probably yes. But we weren’t poor in the same way. We have probably never done so well financially as in the last decade, thanks to oil prices.

A woman cries in front of a bombed-out residential building in Kiev. Photo: Rodrigo Abd / AP

Convinced of the Ukrainian victory

How did you experience Russian propaganda in the weeks leading up to the war?

– In order not to go crazy, I stopped watching TV. But once a week I turned it on. It was like poisoning yourself, just to feel how the poison felt. I noticed that she was getting stronger. Do you know what’s strange? That there are also people in Ukraine who watch Russian broadcasts. A friend in Kharkiv called his grandfather when the war had just started. “It’s not a war, just military exercises. They say it on TV,” replied the ninety-year-old. The next day the bombing had worsened and it was urgent to evacuate. “Shut up, Putin is just bombing military targets,” was the grandfather’s response.

Is this President Putin’s war or are they more guilty?

– We will probably only know after his death. They are probably a group. But I put the main blame on the Russian people, who elected him. People hate the idea of ​​collective responsibility in Russia today, just as the Germans did in 1945. But the world forced the Germans to take responsibility and it did them good.

What is the biggest difference between today’s Russia and the Soviet Union?

– The Soviet Union that existed towards the end was less totalitarian. An aging system, weaker and weaker. They did not spread terrible lies about their neighbors. I am not defending the invasion of Afghanistan. That war was the fall of the Soviet Union and I hope Ukraine is Putin’s fall as well.

It will happen?

– Yes, but it can take many years. Putin’s era could continue after his death. The only thing I know for sure is that Ukraine will win this war.

How can you know?

– There is such incredible resilience. Nothing seen so far speaks in favor of Russia.

full screen Photos: https://www.facebook.com/victoria.ivlevayorke

Blue iris

What should the world do to stop the war?

– Sanctions take effect, of course. Unfortunately, we Russians have to pay for what we have done. We must continue to be financially punished and even isolated until the idea of ​​Russian supremacy is wiped out from our genes and ourselves.

How long will you stay in Ukraine?

– I do not know. I don’t want to go home right now. Maybe I should be arrested. I don’t want fifteen years in prison, like Navalny (Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, ed).

Vladimir Putin talked the other day on “cleansing the country of traitors”. Aren’t you afraid to express yourself so openly?

– One day you might even call me a traitor. What do I have to do though? I can’t stop telling the truth.

Is there anything that gives you hope right now?

– Yesterday I went to buy some food. Then I saw a woman selling flowers on the street. Blue iris. I bought a bouquet. They were so beautiful, the beauty was overwhelming and perfect. She reminded me that life always gets the better of death.

Footnote: Victoria Ivleva’s images from a previous photographic project, “From inside the Chernobyl reactor 4”, are currently on display at Artworks on Grev Turegatan 68 in Stockholm. The proceeds go entirely to UNHCR’s work in Ukraine.


Published: March 20, 2022 at 10.57