Berlin, Saturday, February 26. Day three of the russian invasion of Ukraine. The russian embassy, located on the posh boulevard Unter den Linden, is a stalinistic monument of bad taste. A group of protesters huddle in the middle of the street, blue-yellow flags waving around their shoulders. They shout their frustration and anger against blind windows. No one looks back from the embassy, but you can imagine grey faced russian guards staring in their cathode ray CCTV screens.
The first person I encounter is a woman in peril, clutching her phone. On the screen you see two women hiding in their basement in Kyiv. War in 2022 is instant.
My F3 is loaded with HP5, the Berlin sky’s the dark grey of springtime. Metering the mud beneath I set the shutter to a 1/125 and the 35mm Nikkor toƒ 5.6. Lowering my mask I approach the crying woman, asking the permission to take her picture with my eyes.
Making my way into the center of the group of Ukrainians I realise there are no news photographers around. Just a bunch of analog shooters. One M6, two Rolleiflexes. We pause to talk shop, lenses, film speeds. A sudden commotion, the group splits to let a gentleman in a suit pass. He stops in front of me, stating: “I am Gitanas Nausėda, the president of Lithuania. I just come straight from meeting Olaf Scholz (the german chancellor) and just talked to Zelenskyi on the phone.” He then gives an impromptu speech and talks about the fear of the baltics to be the next victim of russia, and that Ukraine is defending the freedom of us all right now. I am reminded of a trip to Lithuania 1990, which was just getting rid of soviet occupation. Standing on the burning rubble of the KGB-Headquarters in Klaipeda I wondered if the cold war was really over. We know now that for Putin, it never ended.
Gitanas Nausėda, the president of Lithuania stopped by and had some harsh words for the russian embassy behind him.
All images Nikon F3 with 35mm f2. Ilford HP5 @ASA400, developed in HC110, 5 Minutes @20 Degrees Celsius. Prints Ilford MULTIGRADE RC DELUXE V.