In 2014, conflict engulfed East Ukraine. Citizens were forced to choose sides. Would they align with Western Europe or maintain a centuries-old bond with Russia? This question pitted neighbor against neighbor and ripped a nation in two. By 2015, Ukraine had lost Crimea and a vast amount of its industrial heartland in the East Ukraine region of Donbass. These images represent the daily skirmishes, civilian catastrophe and harsh new realities of a country divided.
Lenin in Donetsk.
Ukrainian Independence day celebrations near Maidan.
Igor lost his home on the outskirts of Donetsk to a rocket attack. He lives with his grandmothers in a retirement home for engineers only a few kilometers away from the line of contact.
Debaltseve auto garage.
Teresa Fillmon of Tallahassee, Florida built a home in Toretsk to service international adoptions and spread the word of God. After the war started, the adoptions ceased but Theresa decided to stay and provide relief to local children. She has also made it her mission to feed and outfit Ukrainian soldiers. Front-line positions are two kilometers away.
Igor’s grandmother describes the night of the rocket attack that destroyed her home. She has been left to take care of her grandson since his mother left for Russia months ago.
The front line in Ukraine winds like a scar through the countryside. What used to be bucolic farmland has been transformed into a 21st century battle space. Innocuous farm buildings like this old pig sty serve as observation posts and sniper’s nests.
Towns and villages on the front line are mostly devoid of their civilian populations. But new, heavily armed residents have arrived. In Pisky, only a few kilometers outside of Donetsk, abandoned luxury homes garrison hundreds of Ukrainian government soldiers.
Getting ready for the night’s fight. Most days combat starts around 5pm and continues until sunrise.
Fighting is a daily ritual. No one side attempts to take ground from the other. The shooting is more of an acknowledgment of existence.
In February 2015, soldiers from the Donetsk People’s Republic, with military assistance from the Russian Federation, routed out the Ukrainian army from the Debaltseve pocket in one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Here, a separatist soldier shows off a severed finger he kept as a war trophy.
The E40 highway stretches from France to Kazakhstan and is a major international thoroughfare. After the battle of Debaltseve the transcontinental connection was severed.
Many of the weapons used in the war in Ukraine produced hot fragments of steel. A walk through the landscape of the battlefield showcase grim reminders of past shootouts and artillery strikes.
Soldiers on both sides of the conflict have been forced to use civilian cars as combat vehicles due to a lack of military resources. It is common to see heavy machine guns mounted on the back of Japanese pickup trucks with custom paint jobs.
Ukrainian soldiers fighting the in the Donbass region of East Ukraine hail from all over the country. Some soldiers speak only Ukrainian while others speak only Russian. This often leads to serious communications issues.
Sunset in East Ukraine.
Shipwrecked in Europe
Turkey is the jump-off point to Europe for most refugees. The seaside resort city of Bodrum has become a hub for refugees set to make the dangerous journey across the Aegean.
Refugees from all over South Asia, the Middle East and Africa pass through the Turkish city of Bodrum before attempting the boat trip to Greece. Secluded beaches in and around the city are littered with personal affects.
Turkish Gendarmerie and coast guard do their best to interdict refugees who attempt nighttime crossings in unreliable rubber dinghies. Refugees will hide in secluded areas near the water until they figure the coast is clear.
The central marina of Bodrum, Turkey is a mix of European tourists and, now, refugees from all over the world.
During the daylight hours it is common to see hundreds of refugees waiting around the Bodrum bus station. At night they will decamp for the coastline before attempting to cross over to the Greek Island of Kos.
Many locals of Lesvos assist in aiding newly arrived refugees. Some days, the north shore of Lesvos sees arrivals in the thousands.
Depending on weather, current and the dependability of a vessel the journey from Turkey to Greece can take over six hours. Hypothermia and exhaustion plague new arrivals.
Volunteers from all over the world flock to the eastern Greek isles to help out any way they can.
Thousands of lives have been lost at sea. Most peopled are packed into flimsy rubber dinghies. Many don't know how to swim nor how to operate a boat. Stories of human smugglers forcing refugees under threat of violence to board overcrowded boats is common.
Most of the time, a person's reaction having reached Greece is one of elation. They soon come to realize, however, that the road ahead is fraught with danger and hardship.
After days of rain at the Moria refugee camp in Lesvos, Greece, many people start to develop what is known as trench foot. If not treated, the skin starts to fall off, the affected area can turn gangrene and amputation may be required.
Late October in Lesvos can fluctuate between stifling heat and unremitting rain. Refugees will burn anything they get get their hands on to build a fire, warm up and dry out.
There are not enough police to keep things under control at the Moria refugee camp so refugees turn to policing themselves. Sometimes this can turn violent.
As conditions become unbearable people attempt to storm the gates of the Moria refugee camp.
While the migration of Syrian refugees dominates the headlines, thousands of refugees from Pakistan and Afghanistan have also made the journey to Lesvos.
Thousands of refugees prepare to board a ferry bound for Athens. This marks the next step in their journey to countries like Germany, Sweden or England.
Nestled among the maple and beech trees off a quiet Lancaster County road stands an unassuming Amish farmhouse. While its timber-framed structure may not look out of place in its pastoral surroundings, a kind of medical revolution is taking place. Established in 1990, the Center for Special Children has not only become a primary center for the research of rare genetic mutations and disorders but one of the few places in the United States that seeks to treat them.
The center’s existence in Lancaster County has everything to do with the area’s predominant Anabaptist - Old Order Amish and Mennonite - populations. Most Anabaptists, also known as Plain, lead a bucolic existence stereotypically known for their aversion to modern technologies, such as electricity, and a strict conservative dress code that can dictate the length of a woman’s bonnet strings of the width of the band on a man’s straw hat. Anabaptists have traditionally held jobs as farmers although rising real estate prices have put more and more in metal shops, on construction sites and in shops selling handmade goods.
What makes Old Order Amish and Mennonites of Lancaster County so rich for medical research is that the population can trace their genetic stock to a handful of founding members. These founders, who came over from Europe to Pennsylvania in the 18th century, formed the genetic foundation that now makes up the greater Amish and Mennonite populations of Lancaster. And because Plain people rarely marry or have children outside of their communities they have carried with them the founder’s rare genetic disorders.
These ailments, such as glutaric aciduria type 1 (GA1) and Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD) usually manifest themselves within the first few years of childhood and are often associated with severe brain damage or death. Over the years, however, and with the support of Lancaster’s Anabaptist community, the doctors and researchers at the Clinic for Special Children have been able to use their research to mitigate many of these once deadly disorders. The clinic receives no financial support form the federal or state government and Amish specifically do not participate in public or private healthcare. While these disorders are deeply encoded in the sects’ members - which makes the community so ideal for productive medical research - they also exist throughout the world. Any discoveries or treatments developed at the Clinic for Special Children have life-changing global application.