With the beginning of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine, a cohort of Fulbright photographers, both Ukrainians and Americans, found themselves at the epicenter of momentous events equipped with their own weapons of defense: knowledge and a camera. Ukraine: War and Resistance presents the works of Fulbrighters J.T. Blatty, Oleksii Furman, Brendan Hoffman, Serhii Korovayny, Joseph Sywenkyj, Emine Ziyatdinova, and Oksana Parafeniuk, a former employee of the Fulbright Program in Ukraine. Most of the photographs were taken after the Russian large-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, yet some date as early as 2014, when Russia first invaded Ukraine and annexed the Crimean Peninsula.  

Thanks to the joint initiative of the Fulbright Academic Exchange Program in Ukraine, the Institute of International Education – Kyiv Office, the Bulgarian–American Fulbright Commission, the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture, and the US Embassy in Bulgaria, these photographs capturing the tragic and heroic, devastating and hopeful moments of present life in Ukraine were presented at “Sredets” Gallery in Sofia between February 20 and March 1, 2024.  The exhibition was curated by Bulgarian Fulbrighter Milena Barbenkova and Marian Luniv, Communication Coordinator at Fulbright Ukraine, and made possible through close collaboration between Fulbright Bulgaria and Fulbright Ukraine staff — particularly Mariia Krevchenko from the Kiev Office, who traveled for nearly two days to the official launch reception in Sofia. These were her opening remarks: 

We saw a burning plane fall just in front of our eyes on the first day of the war, with my husband and baby daughter. I will never forget the sound and image. My story and that of my family will be forever linked to war because of Russia. War exists not only on the battlefield but also in people’s minds. We believe and hope that this project helps not only Ukraine, but also the countries and communities which support it. 

At the reception, attended by 80 guests from the greater Fulbright community and our esteemed partners in Sofia with whom we stood in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, we shared a deeply emotional and somber tribute marking the two-year anniversary of the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war. We were honored by the attendance and reflections of Viktor Stoyanov, Deputy Minister of Culture and H.E. Olesya Ilashchuk, Ukrainian Ambassador to Bulgaria. We were greeted virtually by the exhibition’s authors, who recorded messages of gratitude and hope that their work will inspire action for peace. Our deepest appreciation also goes out to H.E. Kenneth Merten, US Ambassador to Bulgaria, Justice Kalin Kalpakchiev from the Supreme Court of Cassation, America for Bulgaria Foundation President Nancy Schiller and Executive Director Desislava Taliakova, Public Affairs Officer Jeff Weinshenker and Press Attaché Richard Pinkham from the US Embassy, and distinguished figures from Bulgaria’s intellectual, cultural, academic, and political spheres such as Georgi Gospodinov and Manol Peykov for their gracious presence and unwavering support. 

This travelling project is available to interested curators, gallery managers and cultural institutions who could promote it to a wider audience in Bulgaria. Please contact idimitrova@fulbright.bg if you want to host an upcoming exhibition of these photographs in your workplace.  

As Ukraine fights to resist aggression and shape its own future, the images of this struggle enter the space of our awareness. In the spirit of the Fulbright program, the exchange of views remains a humanizing medium and an “avenue of hope”, even in darker times.   


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