Over the years, Paula Bronstein's extensive work in various conflict zones has taught her to be a dedicated humanitarian photographer, provoking change and raising awareness on the long-term effects of armed conflict. Her mission is to bring attention back to victims of war who have little voice—getting people to relate.
She is currently looking at under-reported stories in a variety of war-torn countries that deal with the human, economic, and political issues exposing the silent victims of conflict. Her focus in this project is Ukraine's vulnerable, fragile elderly population trapped by a war that sees their lives frozen by conflict, impoverished, living in dilapidated homes.
Ukraine has the highest proportion of elderly affected by war in the world. The ongoing armed conflict has a staggering human toll. Nearly a third of the country’s 3.4 million people that depend on humanitarian assistance are over 60 years of age. After almost five years of war that includes a 500-km “contact line,” large areas of the Donbas region remain under the control of separatists. The war has displaced more than 1.5 million with over 10,000 civilian casualties. In 2014, when violence broke out many young people left, while the elderly stayed behind just barely surviving.
Ukraine’s elderly are trapped in a war zone, listening to the occasional bursts of shooting and shelling near the line of contact that separates the Ukrainian government forces and the Russia-backed rebel forces. For these pensioners who have exhausted their resources, economic difficulties add to the stress of daily life. Restrictive government measures introduced last year led to over hundreds of thousands of elderly losing access to their pensions, their only financial security. In pursuit of destroyed documents, and to collect their pension, the elderly are forced to travel across the conflict-torn borders of the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine which is a difficult journey, waiting in long lines. They are often reluctant to leave their homes and are the last to flee from danger, left abandoned without resources of family care.
Lead image by Paula Bronstein.