By Adria Carpenter
When Russia invaded Ukraine 16 months ago, a group of Fulbright photojournalists were caught in bloody fighting and destruction. Their photographs, currently on display in the Elmer L. Andersen Library, show war from the ground level, from a soldier packing her daughter’s suitcase to a man surrounded by bullet holes in his garage door.
The exhibit began when Roman Tyshchenko, a graduate student and Fulbright scholar at the University of Minnesota, approached the Minnesota Chapter of the Fulbright Association in August 2022, shortly after his arrival in the United States.
For the next several months, Tyshchenko, the Minnesota Chapter, and Fulbright Ukraine, worked jointly with on-the-ground photographers to curate and host this exhibit. In total, seven award-winning photographers, who had earlier fellowships either in Ukraine or America, contributed 40 images, each displaying moving scenes from the combat zone or quiet moments in bombarded cities.
In February 2023, the Fulbright board presented the images as a slideshow at the Ukrainian American Community Center and contributed $1,800 to print and mount the photographs for a mobile exhibit.
‘We have got to show how horrific this war is’
Ukraine: War and Resistance debuted at the Mill City Museum before moving to UMN Libraries in May. For Sally Gregory Kohlstedt, Vice President of Fulbright’s Minnesota Chapter, a moral and social justice obligation underpins each photograph.
“We have got to show how horrific this war is. It’s just brutal. It brutalizes people. It brutalizes landscapes. It brutalizes civilization and housing,” she said. “But the photos reflect the amazing human spirit. People there are surviving, helping each other, and resisting Russian forces.”
The Minnesota Fulbright group, using its person-to-person networks established in international exchange, hopes to draw attention to the Russian invasion and rally support until Ukrainians prevail.
Kohlstedt, a historian and professor in UMTC’s College of Science and Engineering, was deeply affected by the images, particularly ones depicting wounded soldiers, which resurfaced memories of her brother who served in the Vietnam War.
“I slowed down because for me, the photos brought back images of a way that I saw war firsthand. People coming back injured, destroyed. Their lives turned upside down,” she said.
And she wasn’t alone. Kohlstedt noticed that many other visitors slowed down as they passed the images. Usually in museums, people cluster around the artwork and share what they see in the frame, she said. But here, people were reverently watchful.
“I think they were just drawn in, and they waited for the other person to absorb the photographs rather than talking,” she said. “Like it’s not about me, and it’s not about what I think.”
The exhibit will be on display on the second floor of Andersen Library until Aug. 15, when it will move to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in south Minneapolis, and on Sept. 15, it will move to the Charles J. Keffer Library at the University of St. Thomas for a symposium.
As war weariness for Ukraine has set in, seeing fewer and fewer donations since fighting began, Kohlstedt encourages people to donate to Rebuild Ukraine, a local nonprofit that provides direct humanitarian aid to wounded Ukrainian soldiers, civilians, and internal refugees.
What: Ukraine: War and Resistance
When: Through August 15, 2023
Where: Elmer L. Andersen Library, Second floor | Open during library hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday; and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday) | Parking & directions