The Impossible Dilemma

Made possible by the Pulitzer Center

The photographer Misha Friedman went to Ukraine this year with a pressing question on his mind: What does it mean to have to choose between what’s best for your country and what’s best for your family? Friedman interviewed and photographed Ukrainian families who were forced to leave their country due to the Russian invasion. He then juxtaposed these portraits with images from the land they left behind. Yet, underlying all of these images is the realization that the country left behind no longer exists as it once did.


LEFT: Tatiana was a very successful radio DJ in Odesa. When the war started her boyfriend was killed when his car hit a mine. She now lives in Madrid with her two teenage sons. Her sons are doing well with the transition but Tatiana is struggling to reinvent herself, learn Spanish and raise two kids in a new country as a single mom. RIGHT: A Russian rocket hit a residential neighborhood in Uman in the middle of the night. This photo was taken on the day of the attack, which left 25 dead.
LEFT: The wall of a school in Kharkiv that was shelled. RIGHT: Natasha has had to flee her home twice. In 2014, she was forced to leave Crimea for Kyiv and then again in 2022, she fled from Kyiv to England. She now lives in Reading just outside of London. Natasha is a single mother of two and was a successful small business owner in Ukraine but finds it is nearly impossible to recreate what she had built in Ukraine.
LEFT: Sandbags in central Kyiv. RIGHT: Maryna and her daughter spent the school year in Columbus, OH. But when summer came Maryna found it difficult to afford a camp for her daughter. With her husband back in Ukraine, Maryna ultimately decided to return to Ukraine despite the continued Russian bombs. This photo was taken at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. just before flying back to Ukraine.
LEFT: Sandbags in central Kyiv. RIGHT: Dilya (the girl in the mirror) is 17 years old. She and her mother fled Kharkiv for Warsaw, Poland. Her mother eventually returned to Ukraine but Dilya decided to stay in Poland on her own.
LEFT: Langeron Beach, Odesa. RIGHT: Katya is a painter from Odesa but once the war started, Katya left for Paris with her daughter who is now studying film there. Her ex-husband, with whom she’s on very good terms, is still in Odesa.
LEFT: Stockpiles of anti tank barricades in central Kyiv. RIGHT: Tanya is a small business owner from Kyiv where she sold school supplies to education boards around the country. She now lives in Fairfax, VA and is working for United Help Ukraine in Washington D.C.
LEFT: Saltivka, Kharikiv, a neighborhood that was hit hard by Russia. RIGHT: Maryna, left for Germany when the war began. She’s a filmmaker. But after struggling to find work she returned to Ukraine.



Misha Friedman

Misha Friedman is a photographer who collaborates with leading international media and nonprofit organizations. A 2021 Pulitzer Prize finalist, his widely exhibited work has received numerous industry awards, including several Pictures of the Year (POYi).

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