Behind Blue Eyes is a charitable art project in which Ukrainian children document their everyday life in liberated frontline villages and towns, and volunteers fulfill their childhood dreams in exchange for this unique work.
The idea developed from the observations of a team of volunteers working with people in de-occupied territory within Chernihiv Oblast. After numerous trips to the village of Lukashivka, where local residents became their true friends, they were struck by the behavior and mental state of the children. Despite the daily horrors of war, the children were continuing to find joy in life, trying to lead their lives normally, and radiating the light that many of the adults there lacked.
"I believe that this material is very necessary right now. Physically, we gather unique material - a perspective on war and its consequences through the eyes of our future society. On a spiritual level, we have the opportunity to raise important inner statements: about ourselves, our childhood, the connection between them, war and death, life and the future. It's a personal reflection for everyone, and it's happening thanks to these children," says Artem, one of the project's creators.
The initial tasks and vision of the project were to somehow capture the emotions of children and convey them to their parents and those adults who currently need it. Children were simply given disposable cameras and assigned the task to shoot everything they wanted in one week. That's how the idea for this project was born, with its charitable component focused on collecting funds to fulfill the small wishes of these children.
Photo report from Lukashivka village, Chernihiv region.
And one of the first collections was the coverage of the life of children during the war in the village of Lukashivka, in the Chernihiv region.
Meet Masha, a 10-year-old girl from Lukashivka who has been under Russian occupation for three weeks.
Masha, 10 years old. Lukashivka village, Chernihiv region.
Little Masha wrote down a desire to get a chinchilla and a bicycle on her wish list. When asked by the volunteers about her dreams, the girl replied that she would like to bring her grandmother back to life.
She began selling humanitarian aid in her yard and said:
"I'm selling humanitarian aid in my backyard. My mom bought cabbages; my grandpa bought a lighter. Dad got a pair of sneakers because he didn't have anything to wear on his feet - the Russians took everything. I earned about 250 hrvna to buy food for my hamsters."
A photo taken by Masha in the village of Lukashivka
And this photo was taken in Chernihiv region by Bohdan, who is 13 years old.
A photo of a shell taken by Bohdan
"This shell is lying somewhere in the forest, no one knew about it then and probably still does not. We found it while wandering in the forest. I also accidentally stepped on a combat grenade that day and was scared to death," the boy recounted.
The team of this charitable project continues its work in other towns and villages across Ukraine. As of today, volunteers are traveling to the liberated districts of Kherson and Kharkiv, as well as to the frontline villages of Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk, to help children overcome the trauma of war.
On June 19, Behind Blue Eyes volunteers published videos and photos of children from the village of Chornobaivka in Kherson Oblast, which had been under occupation for 9 months. The video from Chornobaivka, in which children reflect on nature and the state of the environment during the war, was filmed 2 months ago. And, according to the project creators, the children's words became prophetic, as less than two months later, the Russians exploded the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station, partially flooding Chornobaivka.
Photo report from a trip to Chornobaivka
"In April, we traveled to the village of Chornobaivka to hear the stories of children who were suddenly forced to become adults due to the war, and to witness how they find happiness in caring for the vulnerable environment around them. However, many of their words now sound almost prophetic as the Kakhovka disaster unfolds," reads the message under the post on the charity project's Instagram page.
The leads in the video are 10-year-old Kostiantyn and Nazar, 11-year-old Vika and 12-year-old Goga.
The creative team of the Behind Blue Eyes project helps to preserve the magic of childhood against many obstacles. Looking through the prism of nature, the little heroes share their thoughts on friendship with ducks and contemplate the impact of human remains on the environment.
The team is. continuing their journey through the liberated and frontline towns and villages in Ukraine, aiming to nurture the children's ability to dream despite the traumatic experience of war, and demonstrating that creativity can be a powerful tool for realizing these dreams.
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