FOR BOSTONIANS who have connections to Ukraine and Russia, the current standoff in Eastern Europe is deeply personal. It’s a threat to their families, friends, culture, and national dignity. For many, choosing sides is nearly impossible — their roots are intertwined, with loved ones living in both Russia and Ukraine, creating even greater tension as the leaders of both nations struggle to find common ground.
Local Ukrainians and Russians, however, are determined not to let the conflict between their home countries tear them apart as well. Many have gathered over the past several months to demonstrate in Boston against the actions of the Kremlin and to create a community of support through social media. Now, with tens of thousands of Russian troops amassed along Ukraine’s eastern border, several recently gathered to help me create the portraits below, hoping to use the project to have their voices heard, to help their loved ones abroad, and to send a message that finding peace is the only viable future for Ukraine.
The subjects of the photographs and accompanying quotes below are students and professionals living in Greater Boston. Some plan to return to Ukraine when their schooling is complete, others are here permanently. All are united in their view that President Vladimir Putin has overstepped, but their overarching concern is for the people and cultures of Russia and Ukraine and about the risk to both should Moscow’s current ambitions lead to additional violence. The only hope to a peaceful resolution, as they see it, is through ongoing dialogue, in the United States and at home.
Our shared humanity is where peace is most likely to be found. Putting faces and voices to political conflicts can only help to de-escalate the tensions that arise from dangerous political situations. If the Ukrainians and Russians living side-by-side in Boston are any indication, human connections can happen regardless of borders and distance.Terri Unger is a freelance photojournalist based in Ipswich.