Powerful Photographs Of Protesters In Kiev

Russian photographer Jana Romanova created a series of portraits called “Azbuka” based on the shared letters from the Russian and Ukrainian Cyrillic alphabets.

During March of this year, Jana Romanova, a Saint Petersburg native, traveled to Kiev to photograph the protesters still living in tents on the Maidan, the heart of Ukraine’s protest movement and the site of violent clashes with police. She asked each of her subjects to think of a word that is the same in both Ukrainian and Russian, then photographed them with an object that represented their chosen term to create an alphabet of shared words. Here are a selection of images from the series:

Аа: Ангел [angel] Angel

Yulia, an 18-year-old programmer from Lvov. At Maidan since December 2013. Jana Romanova / janaromanova.com

A slightly irritated fighter, who sat nearby: “There is no word for ‘angel’ in Ukrainian, it’s yangol.”

Yulia: “There is such a word — remember how they read prayers, and also they say angel-khoronitel [“guardian angel”]? Yes, photograph me with an angel!”

Бб: Бабуся [babusiya] Grandmother (in Ukrainian, soft version in Russia)

Dmitry, a 29-year-old plumber from Vinogradov. At Maidan since November 2013. Jana Romanova / janaromanova.com

“This is my grandmother Kristina, the hero of Maidan kitchen. Do you know how many people she feeds? Sometimes around 6,000 a day. And I’ve been chopping the wood for her, every day since November. But not only for her.”

Вв: Вода [voda] Water

Mariana, a 29-year-old psychologist from Kiev. She’s taken part in all events at Maidan since November 2013. Jana Romanova / janaromanova.com

“There is something — not like a well, but more like a delve with pure water for drinking — and the whole Maidan drinks from it, so there were no problems with water at all from when I started working in the kitchen. I still come every day.”

Гг: Граната [granata] Grenade

Andrey, a 38-year-old businessman from Kremenchug. At Maidan since the end of February 2014. Jana Romanova / janaromanova.com

“Most likely you already have pictures for grenade? Grenade is absolutely the same in Russian and Ukrainian. They don’t even look like grenades, more like a firecracker; we have our own ‘craftsmen’ for those.”

Дд: Дерево [derevo] Tree

Oleksandra, a 25-year-old computer programmer from Kiev. At Maidan since beginning of November 2013. Jana Romanova / janaromanova.com

“We used to have a tent at Maidan, but it was burned. Recently we put up a new one, but mainly our ‘hundred’ lives here, in an administrative building. We were allowed to occupy some of the rooms, but still the staff of the building comes here to work every day. This tree is more lucky than many of us. It survived the revolution, and we have a lesson: We should worry not only about ourselves.”

Ее: Евро [evro] Euro

Vitaly, a 37-year-old builder from Odessa. At Maidan since January 2014. Jana Romanova / janaromanova.com

“Euro is a word that fits by all means. It’s written the same, pronounced the same, and the most important. This was the first idea of Maidan — the basic, the one at the very beginning — ‘eurointegration.’ And now we have a different idea. Which one? Read outside the tent. But it’s only in Ukrainian.”

Жж: Жертва [zhertva] Victim

Nelly, a 28-year-old impresario from Romni. At Maidan since January 2014. Jana Romanova / janaromanova.com

“These are the most horrible 100 meters in the whole Ukraine now, on Institutskaya Street. So many people were killed here by snipers during the attacks; you can’t just even stay here and be calm. You see, people even renamed it to ‘The Street of the Heavenly Hundred.’ All of my friends with whom we were here in February are just common people, not ‘self-defense’ — they can’t come here. They can’t see how tourists take pictures with the barricades and portraits of people who died just in front of their eyes. One of my friends told all the truth in the interview — about how people who did not have any bulletproof clothing or weapons died, how it really was — now a lot of people are trying to find him. He’s hiding.”

Зз: Земля [zemlya] Earth, Ground

Sergey, a 43-year-old actor from Saint Petersburg. At Maidan since Dec. 10, 2013. Jana Romanova / janaromanova.com

“Do you know what newspapers write about me in Russia? On the internet? Only lies! That I was paid, that I’m here with ‘bandera’ people. I don’t even want to read this bullshit. How can they? Let me take a shovel and dig near the tree, to make a good picture about the earth. ‘Earth’ is a good word, I like it. Earth is the one for everybody, why should we divide it? There is no sense.”

Лл: Лампа [lampa] Lamp

Bogdan, a 24-year-old from Lvov. At Maidan since December 2013. Jana Romanova / janaromanova.com

Мм: Маска [maska] Mask

Igor, a 21-year-old sales assistant from Brovory. At Maidan since Feb. 16, 2014. Jana Romanova / janaromanova.com

Оо: Оберег [obereg] Averter

Stepa, a 17-year-old who studied at Novoyavorivsk Orphanage in the Lvov region. Jana Romanova / janaromanova.com

“One of these crosses I got from my best friend right after the attack at Grushevskogo Street began. He said, ‘They will attack soon,’ and gave it to me. … The other cross was given to me by women at Institutskaya Street when snipers were shooting people — to save me. And it really did. Since that moment I wear two.”

Пп: Помидор [pomidor] Tomato

Nikolai — “I’m 28, why don’t you believe me?” — a guard from Svalyava. At Maidan since March 1, 2014. Jana Romanova / janaromanova.com

“Here we have home tomatoes and cucumbers that people send to help us. Those, I think, are from Lvov, but actually they are all coming from different places; everybody sends something they can.”

Тт: Телефон [telefon] Phone

Snezhana, a 19-year-old waitress from Priluki. At Maidan since November 2013. Jana Romanova / janaromanova.com

Уу: Украина - Україна [Ukraina] Ukraine

Yuri, a 58-year-old businessman from Zaporozhie. At Maidan since November 2013. Jana Romanova / janaromanova.com

“If you’re doing the alphabet here at Maidan you have to include ‘Ukraine’ for sure. How is it possible without it? You know what? Ukraine is right here, all these tents, the square, everything together is Ukraine. Take a picture of me in front of the tents, and try to also get the angel. I think this is the statue of archangel Mikhail behind me.”

Фф: Фашизм [fashizm] Fascism

Ivan, a 48-year-old engineer-electrician from Lvov-Kiev-Moscow. At Maidan since Dec. 2, 2013. Jana Romanova / janaromanova.com

“During the attack at Mariinsky, I was lying, bitten, right in front of coming ‘Berkut’ (Ukrainian special forces), and two women were screaming over me: ‘Don’t kill him, fascists!’ I remembered this moment very well, that they were not afraid and protected me. And the word ‘fascism’ burned into my memory at that moment. A lot of things from those happened here can be called ‘fascism’ — look at the burned building of profsoyuzi (‘trade union’) and remember how many innocent people were killed here since December.”

Цц: Центр [tsentr] Center

Maria, a 28-year-old blacksmith and welder from Kiev. At Maidan since December 2013. Jana Romanova / janaromanova.com

“Ten is the center. The score is calculated by circles, and the closer you are to the center, the better. My gunnery instructor says that this training target shows very good result. I started learning to shoot right after everything that happened in December through February. I think that having a personal weapon is the implementation of one of the basic rights of men — the right to protect ourselves from dictatorship.”

Чч: Чупакабра [chiupakabra] Chiupakabra

Vova, a 35-year-old serviceman from the Odessa region. At Maidan since March 2014. Jana Romanova / janaromanova.com

“A chiupakabra is an animal that everybody has heard about, but never seen. Before we came here, we took part at Odessa’s Maidan. Chiupa bit everybody there, so she is the real veteran of Maidan.”

Шш: Шина [shina] Tire

Andrey, a 22-year-old manager from Rovno. At Maidan since January 2014. Jana Romanova / janaromanova.com

Щщ: Щит [schit] Shield

Kostya, a 21-year-old biker from Zdolbunov. At Maidan since Jan. 21, 2014. Jana Romanova / janaromanova.com

“These shields we took from Berkut. Well, some of them we took, and some they just dropped. But the Berkut shield is not beautiful; that’s why I brought mine to the painters so that they decorate it.”

See more of Jana’s work here.

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