U Okraina literally means “On the border”. A frontier territory which for hundreds of years has been a bridge between Europe and Russia. Former home of the Rus of Kiev, Ukraine was divided, reassembled, then divided again, enduring centuries of Russian, Austro-Hungarian, Polish, Romanian and Turkish influence.
Following the thread of news these days, western Ukraine seems to be in revolt against claims of Russian influence over the region. Testimonies paint a far more complex reality where differing visions and lifestyles coexist. While the educated classes of Lviv claim proximity to Europe, in the rural, agricultural region of Chernivtsi, bordering Moldavia and Romania, people reveal a multi- ethnicity where few speak the Ukrainian language and ethnic origins have never been a real problem.
Our journey takes us to Kiev, Lviv, Chernivitsi and Costiceni.
One thing is certain: while the attention of world press focuses on trying to understand if Ukraine should look east or west, the country’s economic situation is disastrous, corruption has spread for decades and the growth of nationalism with the specter of war worries many.
U Okraina truly is “on the border” and perhaps there’s no other way to define it.
Photographs and text by Nicola Bertasi
Webdoc by Nicola Bertasi and Anaïs Poirot-Gorse