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Ukrainian Victory on world’s stage: Eurovision May 16, 2022

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Last night, President Zelensky vowed to hold Eurovision in Mariupol next year after an outpouring of support from the European public propelled Ukraine to victory.

The war-torn nation ended on 631 points while the UK finished second with 466 points. Spain finished third with 459 with Sweden fourth on 438.

Volodymyr Zelensky was quick to hail the victory – and even vowed to hold next year’s competition in Mariupol, despite the city being besieged by Russian forces.

He said: ‘Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe. Next year Ukraine will host Eurovision.

‘For the third time in its history and, I believe, not the last. We will do our best to one day host the participants and guests of Eurovision in Ukrainian Mariupol. Free, peaceful, rebuilt.

‘I thank the Kalush Orchestra for this victory and everyone who gave us your votes. I am sure that the sound of victory in the battle with the enemy is not far off. Glory to Ukraine.’

The Eurovision results are a defiant message to Vladimir Putin as Ukraine’s success was followed by a stunning second place for the UK.

Britain, a staunch ally of Zelensky’s Ukraine during the Russian invasion, almost pulled off a shock win after leading for most of the night, before being pipped at the end.

In contrast, Germany and France, whose leaders have come under criticism for not being tough enough on Russia’s aggression, were the two last placed nations in this year’s contest.

Speaking about the band’s win this evening via a press conference livestream, frontman Psiuk said: ‘We’d like to thank everyone for voting for Ukraine – this victory means a lot to us. This win will lift spirits and lead to more wins across all fronts.’

Psiuk also said the band will celebrate their Eurovision win ‘after the war’, adding: ‘People are getting killed in the war or they fight in the war or lose their jobs in Ukraine, it is not really the best backdrop for celebrations.’

He added: ‘Our culture is under attack. We wanted to present our music to the world last night. I wrote the Eurovision song for my mum way before the war – but afterwards, it started taking a different meaning for different people. It became a tribute to Ukraine as the motherland.

‘I’m going back home as I run a volunteering organisation that helps refugees with food, accommodation, and medication. I will keep doing that. We will host Eurovision in a newly rebuilt and happy Ukraine.’

The Agony in Ukraine: Photos Bohdan Warchomij May 15, 2022

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Western Australia’s Ukrainian community has been dealing with refugees from their homeland since the Russian invasion on 24th February 2022. There are well over 100 families from Ukraine settling in Perth as their homeland burns under Russian bombardment.

Julia Edwards, born in St Petersburg to a Ukrainian mother and Russian father, has called Perth home since 1988 and is in contact with her homeland and relatives  and hearing their stories and tribulations in a country that is a war zone defended by the supply of weapons from the West.

Julia Edwards

She is involved in doing what she can to help and is a partner with the Square Shopping Centre in Mirrabooka for the event ‘We Welcome Ukraine,’  held yesterday in partnership with with the Ukrainian Association of WA and the Red Cross.

Julia, named Miss West Coast in 2019 was ecstatic  at the “amazing turnout”. Many people, touched by the plight of Ukrainians turned up for the event, The Ukrainian Ambassador Vasyl

 

Myroshnychenko flew in from Canberra with his daughter Yaroslava. The Polish Community was there to feed the participants with pierogi.

The highlight for me was Elise Chong’s Orchestra to make a difference:

“The Square Mirrabooka (shopping centre) has approached me to form an orchestra to play the Ukraine National Anthem and Prayer for Ukraine for this fantastic event they are hosting to welcome newly-settled Ukrainian refugee families in Perth. The Ukrainian ambassador for Australia is flying over for this event.”  Elise Chong Conductor

Russian Ambassador to Poland ‘bloodied’ by demonstrators as he attempts to lay a ‘victory’ wreathe in Warsaw May 11, 2022

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Russia’s ambassador to Poland was surrounded by a large crowd who threw fake blood at him while chanting “fascists” and “murderers” on Monday.

Sergey Andreev was in Warsaw to pay respects to the Soviet soldiers who died during World War 2. His arrival coincided with the national holiday known as Victory Day, where Russians still celebrate defeating Nazi Germany to this day.

Hundreds of protesters, furious at Russia’s barbaric treatment of Ukraine, stood in Andreev’s way of the memorial and snatched away the wreath of flowers he wanted to place at the cemetery, where more than 20,000 Red Army soldiers are buried.

 

The activists trampled on the flowers, before dousing him in red paint from behind and beside him – some of his entourage were hit by the red liquid too.

Some activists carried Ukrainian flags as they surrounded the ambassador, while others donned white sheets also smeared with red liquid. The demonstration clearly meant to symbolise the thousands who have died since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

The Polish government has subsequently been criticised for not providing more security for the ambassador amid fears that the Kremlin might eject the Polish ambassador from Russia in return, while others saw Andreev’s appearance in Warsaw as a provocation.

Demonstrations in Warsaw have been building since the war broke out – on Sunday evening, activists parked outside the city’s Russian Embassy with a tank carried by a tractor.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova hit out against the attack in  the standard Muscovite manner, declaring: “Admirers of the neo-Nazis have once again shown their face.” In effect they treated the Ambassador with intelligent contempt.

 

Ukraine war reminds us of war photography’s relevance? The Washington Post May 5, 2022

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Even the most horrifying war photographs may leave you with the odd sense of being an unwanted tourist. It is a dreadful tourism, at a terrible cost, but almost as soon as the eye notices the carnage and destruction, it starts registering small and perhaps irrelevant details. The dirt is a darker red, the trees a deeper shade of green, the architecture and dress are different, as are the street signs, the pavement and the cars.

It feels grotesque to look at suffering and suddenly find yourself noticing the same things that strike you when get off a plane after a long flight to another hemisphere. But that’s how photographs work, and it may be one of these small details that conveys what the French critic Roland Barthes called “the punctum,” the photograph’s “sting, speck, cut, little hole” that gives the image emotional power. The truth we must wrestle with is the pile of bodies in black bags, so why does the mind travel to the odd black draping of the coffin lid, and the curiously short handle of the shovel in the background?

The punctum of the photographs coming out of Ukraine is different from that carried by photographs of recent wars and disasters in Syria, Haiti and Myanmar. At least, it functions differently for audiences in Western and developed countries, where Ukraine feels closer and more familiar. This fact must be acknowledged simultaneously with the role that race and cultural difference play in how photographs are read and circulated. In the West, ugly but resilient ideas about civilization, exoticism and the primitive are used to keep the suffering of Brown or Black people at a safe, emotional distance, often by minimizing or dismissing their full humanity.

But the fact that Ukraine feels more culturally familiar to many people watching these events closely has had a profound effect not just on the kinds of images that are circulating, but also on how they circulate. And it has changed the terms of some of the essential debates about war photography, including the dignity and privacy of victims, as well as the status of traumatic images within an image-saturated media world.

A CBS reporter stumbled with the power of cultural proximity early in the war. “This isn’t a place, with all due respect, you know, like Iraq or Afghanistan that has seen conflict raging for decades,” said correspondent Charlie D’Agata. “You know, this is a relatively civilized, relatively European … city.”

He apologized, as he should have, because Ukraine is not more civilized than any other country, and the destruction of European cities is not more terrible than the destruction of cities in Afghanistan or Iraq. But because Ukraine is European, people in Europe and culturally adjacent to Europe process these images differently, with fewer detours into those tourist details. Images may circulate and accumulate meaning more quickly in the Western media world, because their content requires less basic interpretation or captioning. The punctum of these images is not difference, but sameness, and that seems to bring the horror of war more efficiently to the foreground.

One striking photograph to come out of Bucha, where hundreds of civilians were allegedly massacred by Russians, shows a narrow table crowded with dozens of cellphones, plugged into a maze of power strips. Cellphones are not unique to Europe or any other continent. But this image centers ideas of dependence, connection and the fragility of infrastructure that will be particularly disconcerting for people who take infrastructure for granted and who have had little occasion to contemplate the fragility of their bonds to far-flung relatives and friends.

War reconfigures public space, no matter where it happens. An April 6 image made in Lviv is, in some ways, a more powerful introduction to war and public space than many of the more horrifying images of bombed-out buildings from cities farther east in Ukraine. It shows a child dragging a scooter past a street-level window that has been stuffed with sandbags, a defense against bomb blasts. The ordinary child’s toy makes the extraordinary sandbags all the more jarring. It defamiliarizes an urban space that many residents of similar cities might never give a second thought.

War photography, as practiced by reputable news agencies and outlets, is one of the most hyper-self-conscious subcultures in journalism. Read through the interviews collected in the 2019 “Conversations on Conflict Photography,” edited by Lauren Walsh, and you hear smart, sensitive photographers and editors agonize over how much to show, how to maintain the dignity and agency of victims, and how to break through the complacency of audiences far from the scene of war.

The cultural closeness of Ukraine to many of the journalists documenting the war seems to have pushed some of these concerns to the background. The images seen in many outlets, especially newspapers, still follow most of the rules of discretion and synecdoche that have become commonplace in war photography: Faces are often obscured or hidden, a hand or foot substitutes for the whole of the body. There are hundreds or thousands of more gruesome images from Ukraine sitting on computers and circulating on social media, but few images encountered in mainstream media are as graphic as what emerged from the earthquake in Haiti in 2010.

At the same time, the sense that it is inherently exploitative to photograph the victims of war — an argument of grave importance when there is a wide economic disparity or cultural gulf between the photographers and the people being photographed — doesn’t seem in play in Ukraine. In Bucha and other devastated towns, the witnessing function of war photography is less encumbered by concerns about privacy, agency and dignity. Photographers, audiences and those whose images are being made seem to be in accord: The world needs to see this.

Throughout Walsh’s book on conflict photography, practitioners grapple with an anxiety that has haunted the discipline for decades. Do these images have impact? Can they break through the noise of distraction and our resistance to acknowledge pain? Answers are offered, including variations on the legendary photographer Robert Capa’s dictum: “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.” Good images always have power, they argue. Others grapple with the recurring sense that we are simply desensitized.

More substantial is an argument borrowed from critic Susan Sontag, that we hold ugly images at bay because they make us feel impotent, or helpless.

Capa’s idea of closeness was literal: The photographer must get as close to the violence as possible to make images that have power. In Ukraine, it is the cultural and metaphorical closeness to Western audiences that gives many of these images unexpected force within the Western news ecosystem. They are breaking through, which is forcing audiences to grapple more urgently with Sontag’s idea about impotence. Given that Russian President Vladimir Putin has nuclear weapons and has suggested that he might use them, people horrified by this war face perhaps the most profound crisis of impotence in the history of war photography.

The West is guilty of terrible complacency and indifference to the suffering caused by wars outside the ambit of what we call the developed world, wars too often instigated, prosecuted or provisioned by the United States and its allies. But few people are blessed with a universal conscience, and most of us must labor to expand the power of empathy in radiating circles, from family to community to country to planet.

There are at least two lessons to be learned from the photographs coming from Ukraine. One is about our failure to include the seemingly distant “other” in our sporadic and inconsistent outrage about war and barbarity. The other is that war photography still plays a vital role in expanding the conscience, and that this war, which feels close to home for many, may renew the power of photography to enlarge our sense of that home.

Russian Peace in Ukraine April 28, 2022

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Anzac Day Bassendean RSL and a Ukrainian contribution: Photos Bohdan Warchomij April 26, 2022

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The courage of the Anzacs was heralded by a tribute from the Bassendean RSL, the Returned Servicemen’s League, in a suburb perched on edge of the Swan River. A sizeable number of people turned  up for the tribute, including Ukrainians who live in the area.

Australians celebrate, and will continue to celebrate, Anzac Day, a day chosen as the first and perhaps the most spectacular of the great exploits of our soldiers in the war – a simple little story of the scaling of those cliffs, and one which our children must be taught to love with the combined love of a whole nation, and to remember as an example of the high sense of duty held by their fathers.

In a Europe that has been decimated by Putin’s immoral and genocidal war against the Ukrainian nation and its inspirational President Volodymyr Zelensky we can understand the importance of fighting for democracy and for nationhood as the ordinary people  of Ukraine have. The heroic exploits of the Anzacs can be compared to the heroism of the Ukrainian nation. Resisting the cruelty of Putin and his barbaric invaders is an important principal behind courage. The Anzacs earned their reputation just as the Ukrainians are earning theirs. Both armies are reflecting their courage to the  world we live in. The local Ukrainians through two children Will and Evie and their Youth Organisation contributed a wreathe and placed it on the significant memorial in the centre of the town. Several of them carrying their national flag received pointed applause from people attending the ceremony.

Anzac Day Perth 2022 Photos Bohdan Warchomij April 25, 2022

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Why is Anzac Day remembered with respect and affection by the nation?

It is primarily because our military has contributed to upholding democracy and principles since we were forged as a nation.

We have defended democracy against false ideologies  and rushed as peacemakers to conflict zones internationally.

And this precise direction has created a nation that cares for humanity and  the values that have given us our identity

and our respect from the world we live in.

What has caused this growth of our national pride and position? Why is it that, we, in common with other sister dominions, have been accorded a voice in the directing of the policies of the whole world ?

Without the slightest hesitation, we say it is because of the proud and honorable way in which our soldiers left their homes to go across the world and fight the common foe; to their unexampled exploits, both on the cliffs of Gallipoli and in the trenches of Flanders; to the gallant sisters, who were close behind, healing the wounds of the fallen; and to the fine spirit of independence, originality and resource shown by so many of our men, some of whom, like the late Sir Ross Smith, have continued, after the armistice, to make the name of Australia famous.

In all their deeds of gallantry and daring, some have fallen by the way, some sacrifice of precious life has been paid, and it were unworthy of a young nation to claim credit for the deeds of its heroes without honoring those who paid the great price.

It is to commemorate all this that we celebrate, and will continue to celebrate, Anzac Day, a day chosen as the first and perhaps the most spectacular of the great exploits of our soldiers in the war – a simple little story of the scaling of those cliffs, and one which our children must be taught to love with the combined love of a whole nation, and to remember as an example of the high sense of duty held by their fathers.

In a Europe that has been decimated by Putin’s immoral and genocidal war against the Ukrainian nation and its inspirational President Volodymyr Zelensky we can understand the importance of fighting for democracy and for nationhood as the ordinary people  of Ukraine have. The heroic exploits of the Anzacs can be compared to the heroism of the Ukrainian nation. Resisting the cruelty of Putin and his barbaric invaders is an important principal behind courage. The Anzacs earned their reputation just as the Ukrainians are earning theirs. Both armies are reflecting their courage to the  world we live in.

NYT’s and the Telegram Application April 22, 2022

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ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine — Staff Sgt. Leonid Kuznetsov of the Ukrainian National Guard is running out of time.

He and his comrades holding out in the Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol have only light weapons — machine guns, pistols — to defend themselves against Russian tanks, jets and artillery. They are holed up in a small, reinforced-cement bunker with peeling blue paint on the walls and about two meters of earth over their heads.

Even if the shelling that has been their constant companion for weeks comes to end with Vladimir V. Putin’s order on Thursday to end the assault on the factory, the Russian president’s decision to blockade the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance “so that no fly can escape” could be a death sentence.

“I’m alive and healthy for now, but the situation is very difficult,” said Sergeant Kuznetsov, who is 25. “We’re at the end of our food and water. We have about 1,000 civilians at the factory. I can’t say how many soldiers we have. There are many, many wounded and not enough medicine. The smallest injury can be fatal; there are not even simple bandages.”

Image

A Ukrainian family arrives in Zaporizhzhia after fleeing Russian-occupied Mariupol in Eastern Ukraine, Monday.
A Ukrainian family arrives in Zaporizhzhia after fleeing Russian-occupied Mariupol in Eastern Ukraine, Monday.Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

The Russian military’s destruction of Mariupol will be recorded in history as one of the singular calamities of Mr. Putin’s disastrous war in Ukraine. A vivacious seaside town of about half a million people has been turned to a charred and pockmarked hellscape, the bodies of soldiers, civilians and their pets littering the once leafy avenues.

On Thursday, Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, announced to Mr. Putin that the ruined city was now fully under Russian control, save for the besieged steel plant. There are few buildings left standing and most of the city’s residents, those who have not been killed in weeks of nearly incessant shelling, have fled.

A convoy of yellow buses carrying the latest evacuees arrived here in Zaporizhzhia, northwest of Mariupol, after a harrowing all-night drive through checkpoints manned by jumpy Russian soldiers. They described cold, hunger and weeks living in basements. Days were broken up only by quick dashes to the surface to cook paltry meals on open fires in the courtyard, amid never ending shelling.

“In the city everything is destroyed, it’s terrifying,” said Matvei Popko, a 10-year-old who traveled in the convoy to Zaporizhzhia with his mother, father and grandmother. “At any moment your home could get hit and collapse. For a little more than a month we lived in the basement.”

The zone of Ukrainian control in Mariupol has narrowed to suffocating bunkers under the steel plant like the one where Sergeant Kuznetsov and his fellow soldiers remain, running out of everything, including reserves of hope.

“We’re hoping for help,” he said. “If we don’t get it, we won’t make it out of this factory. We will die here with weapons in our hands defending Ukraine.”

Sergeant Kuznetsov communicated with a reporter by text using the chat app Telegram, and sent a short video of himself sitting in the bunker with a few fellow soldiers nearby. He has an internet connection thanks to Starlink, the satellite internet provider created by Elon Musk.

Video

Cinemagraph
Sergeant Kuznetsov inside the Azovstal steel plant.CreditCredit…new york times

Sergeant Kuznetsov chose to join the military after college because he thought that was what a man was supposed to do, his wife, Maria Kuznetsova said in an interview. “It’s his character,” she said. “He thinks that a man must serve to protect his family.”

Ms. Kuznetsova, 23, said she met her future husband when they were students at Mariupol State University. They married a few years later and now have a year-old son named David. Sergeant Kuznetsov served for three years, then retired in December and filed an application to become a police officer.

Then, on Feb. 24, the war broke out.

Ms. Kuznetsova said she repeatedly begged her husband not to rejoin the military, and initially thought she had talked him out of it.

“It’s difficult to let your beloved man go,” she said. “But every day he talked about it, and then quickly gathered up his things and went.”

Image

Sergeant Kuznetsov with his son, David, and wife, Maria Kuznetsova.
Sergeant Kuznetsov with his son, David, and wife, Maria Kuznetsova.Credit…Maria Kuznetsova

Sergeant Kuznetsov said he was posted to different regions in the city before eventually being assigned to the Azovstal steel plant. For weeks it served as both a military base and a refuge for the families of soldiers and steel workers, as Ukrainian defenders in other parts of the city were killed or forced to retreat.

With no one else left to fight, Russian forces turned their entire might against the factory in recent days, pummeling it day and night with airstrikes, artillery and rockets.

Sergeant Kuznetsov said more than 500 people were suffering from various injuries and there were many, many dead. A number of people sheltering inside have been killed by cave-ins caused by the shelling, he said.

He estimated that he and his fellow soldiers could hold out for another day, perhaps two.

“I ask the whole world to do everything possible to stop the military aggression against independent Ukraine,” he said. “Punish everyone who is responsible for the military action on our territory.”

Ms. Kuznetsova accused the Ukrainian government of abandoning the troops left in the factory complex, though rescuing them would require resources Ukraine can ill afford to spare as its army tries to withstand a new Russian offensive in the east.

Surrender to the Russian forces, Ms. Kutnetsova said, was also out of the question. “It’s a big risk. They could just shoot him.”

Ms. Kuznetsova was able to evacuate with their son on March 20 and is now living in the relative safety of western Ukraine.

As of Thursday evening, Sergeant Kuznetsov had not responded to additional questions. His wife said she had been unable to reach him as well. When last they spoke, on Wednesday, she said he had made it clear that the situation was dire.

“He has no way out,” she said. “He hopes that everything will turn out all right, but he told me to be prepared for any outcome.”

Ukraine’s Foreign Fighters: An Australian Humanitarian en route to Ukraine. Photos Bohdan Warchomij April 20, 2022

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Antonia Hitchen’s opening words in her article for the New York Review of Books “Among Ukraine’s Foreign Fighters” stopped me in my tracks.
“At a barbecue restaurant in Lviv called Meat and Justice,…Ukrainian and Russian casualties are tallied daily on the front door…”

The perfect intro to her story  about fighters and volunteers making their way to Ukraine to fight in the foreign legion of Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Force.

“When President Zelensky announced this idea, many found this invitation compelling…”

The fist volunteer she introduces is Andrew  and Antonia has met him and many others online, dressed in camouflage and chatting to each other online

and asking for advice and swapping tips about how to get into Ukraine and discussing the concept of fighting invading Russians and questioning how to fire Stinger rockets.

“I never understood how people got so moved by the Spanish Civil War, but now I can intuit it,’ another  said to Antonia.

Propelled by a sense of solidarity and a moral cause and an unjust war they felt a need to be in Ukraine just like the volunteers in Spain.

Ironically in Spain they were fighting fascists, which is Putin’s rationale in invading Ukraine, to ‘denazify’ a country which has a Jewish President,

in fact an inspiring Jewish President who is a Ukrainian nationalist.

He is on his nation’s television screens daily

and on the screens of democratic parliament’s with a daily plea for arms comparative to Russia’s better equipped army.

With western arms he insists that the war would have been over by now.

Antonia Hitchens  has done her homework well.

She met Belarusians at the Belarusian Foundation of Warsaw who had left Lukashenko’s and their country behind

in the aftermath of repression in 2020.  So many of them, that they have their own battalion fighting in Kyiv.

Pavel, a mixed martial arts fighter interviewed by by Antonia who offered to fight in Donbas in 2016 and offered the following quote to her.

“Ukraine feels like a second home to me nw. There are the Belarusian people, and then there is Lukashenko. They are two different things.

The Belarusian people stand up for their brothers of Ukraine. I understand the same sense of what they feel there right now. We have a vendetta. We want revenge.”

After reaching the border crossing in Medyka in Southeastern Poland Antonia Hitchens reached Lviv and met with Georgian Legion Commander Mamuka Mamulashvili

which formed in Donbas in 2014  to fight the Russians there. He has fought against the Russians in Georgia before and said to her.

“Georgians  have a lot of experience of facing Russian aggression.”

I’ve just met my first Australian volunteer called Michael Robert, who is flying to Ukraine via Poland tomorrow night,

who told me. “I am not a military man. I just couldn’t watch it any more.

The invasion of a peaceful country. Targeting of  maternity hospitals and civilians.

I couldn’t just and watch. I felt the need to help. I want to volunteer. Whatever needs to be done.”

He doesn’t want to fight the Russians. He wants to contribute humanitarian aid.

He was born in Balga, a suburb of Perth, and lives nearby in Girrawheen, another suburb. On the front of his house he has a Ukrainian flag with a hand painted sign with the words WE STAND WITH UKRAINE”

He has never travelled outside Australia, and he is heading overseas for the first time for a country that is a bona fide war zone,

where he has a couple of contacts, but no knowledge of the Ukrainian language,

or even of the geography of the country. He knows of the immorality of this war,

and of the genocide that has been committed  by Russian soldiers, and of the courage

of the nation in defence of its borders. What he feels is a moral pressure to be be there to help in any way he can.

His son is old enough to understand what his father is committing to.

Michael has three children and separated from the mother of his children.

The eldest is a boy of twelve, and the younger two are girls, one eight and the younger four.
It must be a difficult decision to make and an uncertain one.

He has a new friend in his life and it must be difficult to leave her

but he has a sense of purpose and has had help with purchasing

airline tickets.

His tattoos ascribe his journey in life and he wears a cross around

his neck denoting his intense spirituality.

He will need a spiritual guide on his incredibly brave journey.

 

Sony World Photography Awards Jan Grarup Documentary Winner April 13, 2022

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Jan Grarup’s work is a winner in the Sony World Photography Documentary Awards: the video by the organisation is presented by Johanna Grarup and highlights the achievements of the winning photographers in their respective categories.
https://www.worldphoto.org/ceremony-2022

The Children of the Financial Collapse in Venezuela by Jan Grarup

More than 8.5 million people in Colombia urgently need help. The financial collapse in Venezuela has left many with no access to emergency aid, shelter, clean drinking water or food. Children pay the highest price.

Jan Grarup

Photo Jan Grarup

Photo Jan Grarup

Photo Jan Grarup