"In spring 2014 the Russian military, assisted by local collaborationists occupied part of Eastern Ukraine, including the largest city of the region – Donetsk. The occupied territory immediately became a dangerous place for any pro-Ukrainian individual.
I was last in Donetsk, my hometown, in January 2014. I could never have expected then that this visit would be my last one.
My family photo archive is still there in my flat. I may never see it again. It may no longer exist as I write this text or when you will be reading it. Attempts to retrieve it may entail unnecessary risks for those who would assist me. All I can do to preserve my family's visual history is to reconstruct at least those photos that I still remember. To reconstruct them using any available materials and photos of other people no longer needed by their previous owners. To occupy somebody else's memorabilia exactly the same way my own were occupied."
— Andrii Dostliev
This woman in the photo from the flea market in Riga looks remarkably like my grandmother in her 30s. She had a similar photo – same pose, same three-quarter view, similar clothes. She must have liked it – she even had a hand-coloured enlargement made. The aubergine sleeveless dress she's wearing in this photo lasted long enough for me to remember it.
This picture was particularly important to my grandmother. It was taken shortly after the Soviet army liberated the Nazi forced labour camp in the Sudetenland where she was held. She and her friend and two Soviet soldiers had a group portrait taken in a studio to celebrate the first moments of their freedom.
Grandma was a teacher and had plenty of class photos in her albums. Sometimes she would tell me stories about pupils or colleagues of hers. Obviously, I can't recall any of those nor would I recognise anybody in those photos save for her. If I ever see them again, that is.
A commonplace item in photo archives - a picture of some friends or acquaintances of my parents or grandparents, given or sent in a letter, reverse signed with something like 'for everlasting memory' or 'please remember'. This particular one says 'For a long memory from Reni and Stasik'. Unfamiliar names, faded faces, everlasting memory long vanished.
One of the last family photos shot on film in Donetsk. Plenty of people, some of them I hardly know, some do not belong to our family anymore, a few are dead, others have chosen now to collaborate with terrorists and rather were dead.
b. 1984, Ukraine.
Andrii Dostliev is an artist, designer, and curator from Ukraine, currently based In Poznań, Poland. Has degrees in IT and graphic design. His primary areas of interest are memory, trauma, and identity - both personal and collective. Works in various media. Exhibited his works in Ukraine, Poland, Austria, France, etc.