The following url leads to an excellent article about the plight of Ukrainian villages in their “dying” years. The photos are fascinating, riveting, even heart-rending in their stark photos of mostly unsmiling elderly people. Looking at the pictures and reading the somber story led me to embrace the “land of no return, the dying ukrainian village in Viktoria Sorochinski’s project” in keeping with the tone of the story. How sad, I thought, these poor neglected people living in squalor in forgotten villages that were once vibrant and alive.
But upon studying the photos a second, then a third time, for greater detail–impressed by the cats in many of the pictures–I began to realize that although some of the men and women appeared to be sad, desolate, perhaps waiting to die (as had their village,) this was not at all the impression I got.
The men and women are all decently dressed, with pleasant clothing that is colorful and reasonably stylish (you should see MY wardrobe to appreciate a woman hanging onto and wearing clothing that has long since seen better days.) The people do not appear hungry or to be living in poor living conditions.
And the cats–healthy looking, plump, their kittens cute and inquisitive as any in the world. I have lots of cats that could fit right in with these Ukrainian relatives.
More than anything else in the photographs that led me to abandon my first sad feeling-sorry-for-the-poor-people impressions was pictures of smiling people, presented later in the article . Not that I believe that poor people, even those who are destitute, cannot smile…of course they can, and do. But upon second or third look, the people who aren’t smiling are not necessarily looking sad…just pensive or thoughtful.
Then, looking past the clutter or haphazard house-keeping there is another sign that human pride in their homes induces them to decorate with what they have to make their environment more attractive. Many of these rooms have what appears to be quilts or scarves, tablecloths, fabric cuts…which decorate the walls. There are personal family photos on the walls. Beds are neatly made with attractive covers and draperies or curtains adorn the windows. There are rugs on the floor.
There is a man in a jacket, neat white shirt and dark pants, standing beside a barn that is bulging full of hay…a very positive sign.
A wonderful thing about photography is that a given picture can be accompanied by captions or paragraphs that set the tone and topic of the shot. Just as dark storm clouds can influence the tone of a photo of a flower bed…and an adjective such as “forlorn” applied to a daffodil has a dampening effect on the photo. How much more positive would be words like “brave” or “welcoming.”
Yeah…I know I’m just a Pollyanna at heart. It’s just that looking at the up-side of a situation is just as easy…and much more satisfying than the down-side. I’m glad I took the time to study the photos in this excellent project more than just the quick once-through “isn’t that sad” impression of these people who are living out their lives as closely as possible to their traditional life-style.