From Where They Came

young girl
Katherine Turczan, Child, Kyiv, Ukraine 1991

From Where They Came: Portraits from Ukraine

Portraits by Katherine Turczan 

In 1991, Katherine Turczan, in response to her parents’ dementia, set out to photograph their homeland, Ukraine. There, she found a people in the midst of momentous historical change. 

Her arrival in Ukraine coincided with the August Coup in Moscow with its reverberations in other Socialist Republics. The painful transition from communism to capitalism was transforming the country and her own heritage. As with her parents, here too, she found a past becoming ungraspable—a mirror reflected both inward and out. Her photographs depict the faces, postures, and returned glances of her sitters, appear as meditations on the ways political and personal upheaval resolve themselves through individual lives.

Using her 8”x10” large format camera, traveling by bus and train, Turczan set out into the streets of cities and villages to discover the country’s citizens. Between 1991, and 2008, she made many trips to Ukraine, searching for the collective experience of a nation undergoing profound change. The result is a body of work in the field, including nuns, and children from Chornobyl sanitariums. In each of her portraits, Ukraine’s struggle is given a human face.

In light of the Russian Invasion in 2022, and the ongoing war, these photographs take on a new significance. The images offer a glimpse into the private spaces of a people who have experienced continuous political upheaval and conflict, and today struggle to secure their nationhood.