‘It’s from a series of photographs I took across Ukraine intended to combat falsehoods about the country propagated by the Kremlin’

This was taken in May last year in Myrnohrad, an industrial town 50 miles from Donetsk, a stronghold of the illegal Russian occupation in eastern Ukraine. Then, as now, fears of a Russian invasion were high. While much of the west thinks the threat of conflict started only a few weeks ago, it’s been the reality for Ukrainians for almost a decade.

I was walking around Myrnohrad taking photos with a big portable flash and a plate camera when I saw this woman sit down and light a cigarette. She looked so confident and self-absorbed. I speak a little Russian, so I told her I was taking pictures of ordinary life across Ukraine and asked if she would pose. She agreed without hesitation.

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