Unconquered Kherson travels around the country

Unconquered Kherson travels around the country

30 December 2022

The presentation of the photo exhibition Unconquered Kherson by Oleksandr Korniakov during the Travelling Festival period took place in the shelter during an air raid siren and with flashlights due to a blackout. The exhibition organisers slept in the car, spent tens of hours on the road, and visited 9 cities in different regions of the country. And the coordinators of the Travelling Docudays UA, for their part, provided all possible conditions for holding a photo exhibition.


The entire world saw the rallies and resistance of the Kherson people through the eyes of Oleksandr Korniakov, a photojournalist of the Vgoru Media Platform. His photos from Kherson's peaceful actions against the Russian occupation made it into the columns of the world's most famous media. Oleksandr spent five and a half months in the occupation. He filmed the city and people from 1 March to 10 August and with his works proved to the world that Kherson is Ukraine.


The exhibition Unconquered Kherson is a photo story about the thirst for freedom of brave and fearless Kherson citizens, about their resistance to the Russian occupation, which continues to this day. The author presented 50 works, of which 25 were photos of rallies and protests. Another 25 show the everyday life of Kherson residents during the occupation. During the Travelling Docudays UA, the exhibition visited Cherkasy, Dnipro, Lutsk, Ternopil, Lviv, Chornomorsk, Khmilnyk, Chortkiv, and Zaporizhzhia.


Photo exhibition Unconquered Kherson in Vinnytsia


"The festival was not new to me, I knew about it well. Once I visited Docudays UA for the first time, and it touched my heart. And when they offered to take part in the exhibition, I gladly agreed. The organisation was perfect. It was nice that many people came who were interested in those events. Because I, as a native of Kherson, got the opportunity to communicate with people from other regions and talk about Kherson. It is crucial for me that many people come, that they ask questions and listen. It's great!", Oleksandr shared his impressions of the festival and regional partners of the Travelling Festival because this photo exhibition was made possible, in particular, thanks to them.


Of course, during a full-scale war, it is difficult to plan and expect that all events will pass without corrections. For example, in Ternopil, half an hour before the opening of the festival and exhibition, an air raid was announced. Then the enemy launched 70 missiles at Ukraine. Guests and journalists had to take shelter. And in Cherkasy, also on the first day of the Travelling Festival, which was to be opened by a photo exhibition, the electricity was turned off.


But this didn't stop us from holding the events the guests will remember for a lifetime. In Ternopil, right in the bomb shelter, an impromptu presentation of a photo exhibition by the people of Kherson, its organisers, spontaneously began. In Cherkasy, the audience viewed photos with flashlights. Even when the electricity was turned on, the guests asked not to turn on the lights because flashlights and garlands created a special atmosphere.


Photo exhibition Unconquered Kherson in Cherkasy


From city to city, Oleksandr, together with his colleagues from the Vgoru Media Platform, talked about his experience of living in the occupation and sincerely shared his memories and thoughts about the future. The photo reporter left Kherson for Odesa and stayed there for some time. However, he always believed that he would definitely return, so he waited patiently. And it finally happened.


Now Oleksandr works in Kherson, "I have been working in the media for 11 years, this is a profession that I really like. I could not stand aside from what was happening in the city, I wanted to record everything. It is also necessary to collect photo evidence of the crimes committed by the Russians during the occupation and after they left the city. I could not simply observe Kherson from somewhere in another region. I need to be here, I feel it."


The photo reporter remembers how on 24 December, he witnessed a large, terrible shelling of Kherson. Another minute and he could have been one of the victims of this tragedy. "In the morning, I went to film the consequences of the shelling that took place the night before. I went to the Zabavka neighbourhood to film the destruction. When I was returning through the city centre, I just reached the Central Market, and at that moment, the shelling began. If a minute or a half had passed, I could have been under fire! I was very lucky because a little more and I would have been in the place where the cars were burning. There were not many people, but enough for that time of the day."


Life in a city that the enemy looted and destroyed during eight months of occupation, and is now shelling daily, is a constant struggle for survival. But it is also an incredible feeling of returning home and freedom. "When you sit at home, and a Grad shell flies over your house in the evening, it is, of course, very scary. The attacks happen in almost all areas of the city. There is no feeling that you are safe. This is very scary. What has changed? Communal service workers are trying to bring the city to at least some order: they clean, sweep up leaves, etc. But the city has a depressing appearance because there are extremely few people. People continue to leave because of shelling," Oleksandr shared his impressions.


And he adds, "Despite all this, I really want to be in Kherson all the time, film everything, and talk about how he is getting back on his feet. But at the same time, I understand that I have to travel, tell how we lived and resisted the occupation. Because Kherson is Ukraine. And there should not be any stereotype about this issue."


Read the full story of the photos of the Unconquered Kherson project in the text by The First Channel of Social News here.


The text was prepared by Maria Buchelnikova and Anna Yukhymets.


Cover photo: Oleksandr Korniakov.

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