“This war brought Ukrainians together. For some reason sorrow brings people together more than joy,” said Iryna Nalyvaiko, as she went on to describe how well she was treated by her fellow citizens after she escaped Russian occupation in Hostomel, a Kyiv suburb located just northwest of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. Hostomel was the scene of viscous combat early in the war as it was key to Russia’s initial plan to capture Kyiv and subjugate Ukraine.
Iryna sits for a portrait two months after her husband Viacheslav was killed in combat by Russian forces. Originally from Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine, Iryna, Viacheslav and their 20-year-old son Ivan were home in Hostomel when Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine with the assistance of Belarus.
Viacheslav left a well-paying job the first day of the invasion and joined Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Force while Iryna and Ivan became stuck in Hostomel under Russian occupation for several weeks before a harrowing escape. She returned to her home in April after Russian forces lost the battle for Kyiv and retreated. “I just don’t understand how we [Ukraine and Russia] will live next to each other moving forward…They [Russia] think they can just scare us, but they did nothing but enrage us. Now there is only anger [towards Russia], and it will be this way for several generations.” Hostomel, Ukraine, November 21, 2022