In 2004, while on assignment in the Ukraine for the electric company AES, I spent the day visiting the orphanage Отчий Дім / Father's House, in the outskirts of Kiev, documenting the daily life of the children. The ages of the children ranged between infant to 18 years, and the dedication of the staff was amazing. My hope was that each of these children, abandoned early in their fragile lives, would find a loving home to take them in.
When war broke out I visited the Facebook page of the orphanage and learned that on February 27 all of the children were evacuated by the staff, in the hopes of heading to safety far from the war. I realized that the children that I photographed 18 years ago were now adults - many with children of their own - having to defend their homeland.
My heart goes out to them and to all of the people of Ukraine as we all watch in real time the defense and destruction of a free nation.
Here is an excerpt from the orphanage's Facebook page:
Just before leaving the Father's House, I collected the children and explained to them that in one day we had grown up with them by at least 10 years. Asked to behave your age accordingly throughout our trip. I promised that their childhood would come back to them at the end point of our journey.
We needed to overcome the distance from Svyatopetrivsky to the Yagodyn checkpoint in one breath without stopping in the toilets, as there was a high probability of an enemy attack from the air at any minute and in any place. To do so, as soon as the offer to leave was received, we asked children and adults to refrain from food and drink if possible. Everyone, without exception, agreed and took this understanding and very seriously. We covered the distance of 500 km in one breath.
- Roman Korniyko