The Bucha massacre: a mother, a 6-year-old child and the impact generated by the photo of an Argentine journalist

In the courtyard of his home, 6-year-old Vlad Tanyuk stands in front of the grave of his mother Ira Tanyuk, who died of starvation and war stress, outside Kyiv, Ukraine (AP Photo / Rodrigo Abd)
In the courtyard of his home, 6-year-old Vlad Tanyuk stands in front of the grave of his mother Ira Tanyuk, who died of starvation and war stress, outside Kyiv, Ukraine (AP Photo / Rodrigo Abd)

Tanya Nedashkivs’ka is 57 years old and she is from Ukraine. She is wearing a hat and a black jacket. Her skin is tanned from the cold and from the years. When she sees him, she kneels as she tries out a prayer. She also opens her arms simulating a plea. She puts her hands to her chest, begging for commiseration. She no longer has tears to cry but she cries. She is not posing. He asks to be shown. Not to her, but to her pain and her husband’s grave that lies buried in the courtyard of their home. He takes pictures of her. Even a cat who takes refuge from the cold in a box where ammunition is stored. Even Ira Gavriluk walking among the corpses of her husband and brother. Even the hand of a charred body. Work on it: take pictures.

Rodrigo Abd is 45 years old and is from Argentina. It took five days to get to kiev from Buenos Aires. He arrived on Saturday 19 March, after making heavy stops in New York and Warsaw. He will leave when his work is done for the month. He had been tasked with documenting what was to be the final battle of the Ukraine-Russia war: “It came to mind: the takeover of the government, the fall of Ukraine, the resignation, the capture of the president.”

Nothing like that happened. The war continues, just as cruel, just as merciless. He ran into a strict regime, sirens on loopsystematic bombing. The Ukrainian capital resisted and the attacks began to subside. The parenthesis in Kyiv’s harassment allowed Rodrigo – and the other photojournalists – to visit the satellite cities of Kyiv. The work teams of the agency Associated Press (AP) They were divided. Each group is made up of a journalist, a cameraman, a photographer and a translator. Even if the journalistic dynamics can undergo alterations: sometimes without the journalist, sometimes only with a local driver. He had to play the horror of Makariv, Irpin and Bucha.

Rodrigo Abd in Ukraine:
Rodrigo Abd in Ukraine: “I’m always afraid and certain situations scare me but I’m not a fearful type. I try to take care of myself but I always have the conviction of being safe”
Rodrigo Abd in the recent Corrientes fires.  He was born in Buenos Aires on October 27, 1976 and returned to live in the country after 18 years.  He is the father of Victoria, 8 years old
Rodrigo Abd in the recent Corrientes fires. He was born in Buenos Aires on October 27, 1976 and returned to live in the country after 18 years. He is the father of Victoria, 8 years old

There are no more Russians in Bucha and there are no dangers. What is left is what is left and what is left is what survived the invasion. “The main avenue is a tank graveyard. All you see is the color of soot and rust, pieces of cannons lying around, remnants of steel, boots, gloves, cables, concrete, raised asphalt. There is no subway on the boulevard that is clean, ”the correspondent wrote InfobaeJoaquín Sánchez Mariño, in a note on the Bucha massacre and entitled “The Russian torture center that became the horror basement of the city“.

Amidst destruction, chaos, lifeless things, things in places where they shouldn’t be, things without form, he found Tanya Nedashkivs’ka, who was looking for him. Not really to him, but to someone who could convey his pain. In Bucha he also met many people eager to express themselves, to teach. Some children who accompanied and led his news coverage had asked him to follow them. They wanted to show them something. “They took us to this garden where the neighbors in the neighborhood were buried,” he says. They were not thrown bodies, but bodies covered with earth, people who had been veiled.

They arrived at the inner garden of a kind of neighborhood. Segmented by wire, sticks and wood, the bodies of civilian victims of the war had been buried on a patch of land without grass. The tombs were recognizable: standing crosses, leaning crosses, bricks along the perimeter. In the city where the Ukrainian army defended and repelled the Russian offensive, people had to dig graves in the courtyards because they could not move due to the crossfire..

Vlad's brother, Vova Tanyuk, 10, puts orange juice on his mother Ira's grave (AP Photo / Rodrigo Abd)
Vlad’s brother, Vova Tanyuk, 10, puts orange juice on his mother Ira’s grave (AP Photo / Rodrigo Abd)

Vlad confronts his mother's grave and that of another neighbor in his backyard.  Due to the crossfire of the clashes, they were unable to look at them in the cemetery (AP Photo / Rodrigo Abd)
Vlad confronts his mother’s grave and that of another neighbor in his backyard. Due to the crossfire of the clashes, they were unable to look at them in the cemetery (AP Photo / Rodrigo Abd)

That Monday, April 4, Rodrigo took photos of human interaction with those graves. She portrayed the gesture of Vova Tanyuk, ten years old and dressed in a blue jacket, black pants and hat, who deposited a can of orange juice on the ground that today holds the remains of Ira, her mother, who died of hunger and stressaccording to the same US news agency.

The photographer also captured the vacant gaze of six-year-old Vlad Tanyuk, brother of Vova and son of Ira.. Sheathed in a green hooded jacket, with his hands in his pockets and his head bowed, standing in front of where his mother rests today, he didn’t look at Rodrigo’s camera, but he knew she was photographing him.

That and other photos were also posted on his account Instagram. The images are accompanied by a description. He wrote: “All these terrifying scenes are seen in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv. The people who return to their village are shocked, on the one hand a little relieved by the withdrawal of the Russian army and at the same time horrified by what they find at every step ”.

Tanya Nedashkivs'ka is a 57-year-old widow who cried in front of Rodrigo's camera in Bucha, a city on the outskirts of kyiv (AP Photo / Rodrigo Abd)
Tanya Nedashkivs’ka is a 57-year-old widow who cried in front of Rodrigo’s camera in Bucha, a city on the outskirts of kyiv (AP Photo / Rodrigo Abd)
Ira Gavriluk walks with her cat among the bodies of civilians killed during the Russian invasion of Bucha (AP Photo / Rodrigo Abd)
Ira Gavriluk walks with her cat among the bodies of civilians killed during the Russian invasion of Bucha (AP Photo / Rodrigo Abd)

Different people, through their professional work and through their publications on social networks, have been impressed by their photos. In particular with one, that of Vlad. He did not imagine the repercussion. “I have the misfortune or happiness that my job has taught me to put up with things like this. I lived in Guatemala, in El Salvador, I was with the Maras in Central America, with the informal mines in Peru, in Afghanistan I went out with the troops to cover up disputes with the Taliban. I told about the war in Syria, the conflict in Libya with Gaddafi. I was training to see difficult things. I understand it as part of something I have to go through: how difficult or tragic it is to see those images with my camera is the necessary step to be able to tell them. The images we make are distributed and it is believed, therefore, that the message he is giving has a certain value. is a multiplier factor“.

His latest example is Vlad. The photo she took of him multiplied the empathy. Now he wants to go back to look for her at the insistence of those who have offered his help to her. “Many people were moved by that photo. They have emailed me from all over the world to see if I can send them help. I’ll be back to talk to those two brothers soon to see how we express the desire many people have to help them.“.

The Argentine photojournalist’s desire is to become the bridge for those who have expressed a desire to help him and for the little Ukrainians. In Bucha, he says, there is no longer any real danger. We only experience the discomfort of destruction and a slow process of reorganization begins to beat: people who come out of shelters and from the darkness of their homes to recompose a certain dynamic of normality. But there are no banks, there is no way to channel aid or to trace a network of solidarity. That’s why it comes back: so that the photo is not only news screening, but also access to a repair.

“There are photos that I don’t take. I try to make them as respectful as possible with the victims and their families. You have to be very careful and be very delicate to the limit of wanting to tell what happened and exploit the victim”, says the photographer (AP Photo / Rodrigo Abd)
He wanted to document the devastation of the places where there were battle scenes, mainly on the outskirts of kyiv, the satellite cities where the bloodiest fighting took place (AP Photo / Rodrigo Abd)
He wanted to document the devastation of the places where there were battle scenes, mainly on the outskirts of kyiv, the satellite cities where the bloodiest fighting took place (AP Photo / Rodrigo Abd)

“I’ve been to several cities, but nothing is like what happened in Bucha -Add-. Bombings on both sides, a permanent occupation, a tragic coexistence, many people forced to live in cellars, hibernations, Russian soldiers who did not let people walk on the street and who walked, killed, tortured. It is evident, due to the destruction, that the battle fronts were in Bucha ”.

“What I saw was too much: a lot of accumulated death. I saw the terror, the faces of the people, the neighbors who looked at you and started talking to you and just started crying. I saw a contained anguish and at the same time a great desire to tell what they are suffering. Not only have they lost relatives, but the city is destroyed. There are no streets that do not have houses burned, tanks destroyed. It is an apocalyptic scenario“He fixes.

Rodrigo realizes that in Bucha, where a Ukrainian army drone captured the moment when Russian forces fired on a man on a bicycle, the local government first let international journalists record the devastation and horror. The next day, the photojournalist also recounted how policemen collected the bodies and transferred them to the cemetery at the start of the war crimes investigation process on the outskirts of Kyiv.

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