Vladimir Shraga is a freelance photographer who works for the JDC, one of The Fellowship’s partner organizations in Israel and the former Soviet Union. He regularly takes photographs of the people helped by The Fellowship, making the thousands of miles between donor and recipient shrink considerably with his moving portraits of the people whose lives we transform.
Vladimir recently returned from a trip to take photographs of people The Fellowship helps in war-torn Ukraine. Below is a letter containing some of his first impressions upon returning home.
I've been back home for a few days already, but my thoughts are still in Ukraine. Before this trip I was trying to understand the current situation there, to feel the mood of the country – and I failed to do this remotely. Now, after I met 90 families, I have a feeling that I know what bothers people there today and how they feel.
My previous trip happened when half of the country was ruined by military conflict. But that was a time for action, a time that united people. This time I witnessed the aftermath of the last two years: People I met are completely exhausted by the endless worsening of their financial and social situation. They see no improvements and, what's most terrible, many of them have lost any hope for the future.
In many cases Hesed [a Fellowship-sponsored organization] is there for them to fulfill their most basic needs. This is essential as people simply have no money to pay for utilities, food, and medicines. They say that they have no idea how others survive, those who have no organization to help ease their living.
This terrible situation certainly enormously increases the role which Hesed plays in the daily life of its clients.
When I first started out in 2013, I was thinking that meeting that many families, documenting their innumerable stories, would soon make me less sensitive to them. I was afraid of becoming less sensitive. But now I notice that something very different happens. The more people and stories and countries I meet, the more attached I get to each of them.
On my way back from Ukraine, I suddenly realized that all these stories become a part of my own personal story. This job made me know my people, made me feel like they’re part of my bigger family. This is one of the biggest things that has ever happened in my life, and I'm very grateful for this.