Philly Photographer Documents Ukrainian Refugee Crisis

Ada Trillo, whose work hangs in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, told of a journey taken by 7 million Ukrainians this spring.

Borodyanka, Ukraine.  Apr 9, 2022

There is Trillo

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As a photographer I have documented the exodus of refugees from their home countries to host countries for the past seven years. I’ve covered Honduran caravans fleeing gang violence in Mexico, and Mexicans enduring atrocities on the US border.

My work follows the journeys refugees make when forced to leave their homeland, focusing on how the events they escape create an accumulation of circumstances as they make their way to safety. These are pictures of sacrifice and danger, of resilience and outbursts of kindness.

This mission led me to Ukraine when the Russian invasion caused the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. More than 7 million Ukrainians fled their country in nearly 100 days this spring as Russian troops turned cities to dust.

When I arrived on May 30 in Przemysl, a Polish town near the Ukrainian border, I was struck by how the refugees were treated kindly on arrival and given free coffee and meals as soon as they arrived.

Along with Poland, other European Union countries have provided refuge to Ukrainian refugees, allowing them to move freely and access health care, work permits and education. This treatment contrasted sharply with the reluctant, slow process for refugees entering the United States from the Mexican border.

From Przemysl I went to Lviv, Ukraine and then Kiev, which became my home base when I ventured to Irpin, Bucha and Chernihiv – cities where Russian troops carried out mass civilian executions, torture and rapes.

As I walked those war-torn streets, I saw people cooking outside on portable gas stoves or campfires. They often beckon and put their hands to their mouths like mimes asking me if I’m hungry. The idea that kindness in its purest form could exist among all the pain, suffering, and violence comforted me.

When I returned from Lviv to Poland, every available seat on the bus was used by the women and children fleeing the conflict. We waited 4 hours at the border for inspection and processing, but once we set foot in Poland, we were greeted by the sight of mobile kitchens manned by volunteers from all over the world, a very different scenario from what the Central American refugees experience upon arrival in the US

My photos show the sacrifices made to arrive at a safe country and the dangers faced on the journey to get there.

Irpin, Kiev Oblast Ukraine, April 9, 2022. The charred remains of a Russian tank.
There is Trillo
Bucha, Kiev Oblast, Ukraine, April 8, 2022. At the Bucha cemetery, mortuary workers unload the bodies of civilians who died during the siege of Bucha.  Bucha, just outside Kiev, was one of the hardest hit cities and the scene of mass graves and suspected war crimes.
There is Trillo
Lviv, Ukraine April 3, 2022. Anxious residents travel by public transport in the city of Lviv.
There is Trillo
Chernihiv Oblast, Ukraine.  April 6, 2022. The bombed-out remains of a house in the besieged northern city of Chernhiv.
There is Trillo
Borodyanka, Ukraine.  April 9, 2022. Firefighters and volunteers embark on a harrowing search for bodies under the rubble of residential buildings destroyed during the Russo-Ukrainian war.
There is Trillo
Borodyanka, Ukraine.  April 9, 2022. A firefighter pauses while recovering victims from the rubble of residential buildings destroyed during the Russo-Ukrainian war.
There is Trillo
A street in Bucha, Kiev Oblast, Ukraine, April 8, 2022. The aftermath of a battle between the Russian and Ukrainian armies.
There is Trillo
Bucha, Kiev Oblast, Ukraine, April 7, 2022. An exhausted child rests outside a residential apartment building.  Hundreds of families lost their homes during the war and were left on the streets.
There is Trillo
Irpin, Kiev Oblast, Ukraine, April 5, 2022. A member of the Ukrainian civil resistance patrols the streets of Irpin after the Russian bombing.
There is Trillo
Chernihiv, Ukraine, April 6, 2022. A deep trench caused by a Russian missile at Chernigiv stadium.
There is Trillo
Bucha, Kiev Oblast, Ukraine, April 10, 2022. Ukrainian government officials have recovered bodies buried in a mass grave in the backyard of a church in Bucha for forensic investigation of war crimes.
There is Trillo
Przemyśl, Poland April 1, 2022. Jana, age eighteen, travels by train from Przemysl to Lviv so that she can work and send money to her family in Poland.
There is Trillo
Przemyśl, Poland April 1, 2022. Safe in Poland, exhausted Ukrainian refugees wait at Przemysl train station.
There is Trillo
Przemyśl, Poland April 1, 2022. The long wait in Poland.  A young Ukrainian girl notices the time in the train station.
There is Trillo
Chernihiv, Oblast, Ukraine, April 6, 2022. Volunteers work in what used to be a pizzeria and now serve as one of the centers helping the war victims in the city of Chernihiv.
There is Trillo
Borodyanka, Ukraine.  April 9, 2022. Firefighters and volunteers search for bodies under the rubble of residential buildings destroyed during the Russo-Ukrainian war.
There is Trillo
Borodyanka, Ukraine.  April 9, 2022. The grim quest for bodies.  Firefighters and volunteers climb through the rubble of residential buildings in search of bodies.
There is Trillo
Bucha, Kiev Oblast, Ukraine, April 8, 2022. A makeshift grave in the courtyard of a house.
There is Trillo
Kiev Oblast, Ukraine, April 8, 2022. The remains of a tank from the war between Ukraine and Russia.
There is Trillo
Hostomel, Kiev Oblast, April 5, 2022. The Russians attacked a central international cargo facility in Ukraine close to Antonov Airport.
There is Trillo
Hostomel, Kiev Oblast, April 5, 2022. A civilian observes the remains of the world's largest aircraft destroyed by the war between Russia and Ukraine at Antonov airport.
There is Trillo
Borodyanka, Kiev Oblast, Ukraine.  April 9, 2022. A group of elderly residents prepared food on the street because they lost their home in the war.  Borodyanka was hit particularly hard by Russian attacks and suffered the most massive destruction of all cities in the Kiev region.
There is Trillo
Borodyanka, Kiev Oblast, Ukraine.  April 9, 2022. The food supply of a group of elderly residents who lost their home during the war.
There is Trillo
Chernihiv, Oblast, Ukraine, April 6, 2022. A Ukrainian military tank circulates on the streets of Chernihiv during the war between Russia and Ukraine
There is Trillo
Borodyanka, Kiev Oblast, Ukraine.  April 9, 2022. A group of elderly residents prepared food on the street because they lost their home in the war.  Borodyanka was hit particularly hard by Russian attacks and suffered the most massive destruction of all cities in the Kiev region.
There is Trillo
Chernihiv, Oblast, Ukraine, April 6, 2022. Volunteers work in a former pizzeria that now serves as one of the centers helping the war victims in the city of Chernihiv.  On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine, marking the 119 days of the war.
There is Trillo
Chernihiv, Ukraine Oblast, April 6, 2022. Volunteers and Ukrainian officials work in what used to be a pizzeria and now serve as one of the centers helping the war victims in the city of Chernihiv.  On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine, marking the 119 days of the war.
There is Trillo
Chernihiv, Oblast, Ukraine, April 6, 2022. Volunteers work in what used to be a pizzeria and now serve as one of the centers helping the war victims in the city of Chernihiv.  On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine, marking the 119 days of the war.
There is Trillo
The founder of the Iskra Dobra Help Center in Chernihiv, Oblast, Ukraine, April 6, 2022. Volunteers work in what used to be a pizzeria and now serve as one of the centers helping the war victims in the city of Chernihiv.  On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine, marking the 119 days of the war.
There is Trillo
Medyka, Poland, on the Ukrainian border.  March 30, 2022. Food center for refugees arriving in Poland.
There is Trillo

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