Ukraine: Toxic Stress
The numbers alone are frightening: millions and millions of refugees and displaced people; more than three million children in dire need of humanitarian aid; four million children in the country who are no longer able to attend school; and, in addition, the vast number of those who are in danger of suffering due to the expected shortages of electricity and water, and from hunger and cold. A gigantic task especially for organizations such as UNICEF. And there is something behind the bare numbers that is more difficult to quantify and more threatening to children in particular: one aid organization called it the ‘toxic stress’ they are exposed to.
In his pictures, photographer Fabio Bucciarelli has documented how the experience of violence spreads like a poison in the souls of children. Some of it shows directly, in fearful embraces, for example; in attempts to hide under blankets; in the physical suffering of injured children and young people. Some of it is only hinted at: in a classroom ripped apart by war in Kharkiv; in the toys left behind on the table of a ruined apartment in the village of Mala Rohan.
The list of risks for Ukraine’s children extends far beyond the direct effects of war. It also includes the involuntary separation of families, the lack of teachers, the inadequate supply of clothing and food, and the threat of disease outbreaks.
Photographer: Fabio Bucciarelli, Italy
Fabio Bucciarelli, born in 1980, has been documenting conflicts and their consequences on people’s lives for over ten years, for example, in Libya, Syria, Iraq and the Gaza Strip, as well as in Africa and Latin America. In 2022, he also started reporting as a correspondent for Italian television from Ukraine.
Bucciarelli’s numerous awards include the Robert Capa Gold Medal, a World Press Photo Award, a Sony Award, and several other awards in France, Italy, and Japan. He did not start working as a professional photographer until 2006, though. Before that, he completed a master’s degree at the Politecnico in Turin and initially worked as an engineer.
Since 2011, he has also published a number of books, such as ‘The Dream’ about refugees in eleven countries. His works are regularly published in the New York Times, but also in other renowned media in Europe, the USA, and the Middle East. Bucciarelli also works for different NGOs, including the UN Refugee Agency.