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Intimate accounts of limbs lost, lives devastated in Ukraine

Natasha Stepanenko, 43, sits on her bed with daughter Yana, 11, at a public hospital in Lviv, Ukraine, May 15, 2022. On April 8, a missile struck the train station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk where Natasha, Yana and her twin brother Yarik were planning to catch an evacuation train heading west and, they hoped, to safety. Yana lost two legs, one just above the ankle, the other higher up her shin. Natasha lost her left leg below the knee. (AP Photo / Emilio Morenatti)

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Madrid-based Chief Photographer Emilio Morenatti and Athens Bureau Chief Elena Becatoros tell the arresting stories of Ukrainians who have lost limbs to Russian attacks.

The stories of people who undergo amputations during conflict are as varied as their wounds; the duo worked through local contacts and searched hospitals for the right subjects to convey the experiences of individuals who had their lives suddenly and violently upended. Morenatti’s intimate images and Becatoros’ evocative text convey the brutal consequences of war for men, women and children suffering permanent loss and facing long journeys of recovery and reconciliation.

Morenatti, who lost his left leg in 2009 while on assignment covering the conflict in Afghanistan, describes his approach to the coverage:

“When a part of your body is amputated, you cross over into the disabled community, and a camaraderie inevitably develops,” Morenatti says. “My need to access this group is above any kind of impediment: I’m fascinated by comparing experiences, amputee to amputee. This is why I’m no longer interested in covering the war from the front line, but rather from behind the front lines, where those who have lost their legs and arms are left behind, to document the accumulated painful experiences that remain beyond any human logic and where the only thing that remains is the raw testimony of the cruelty marked by this damned war.”

The AP pair’s package,focusing on six victims of the war,was widely used, and Morenatti discussed the work at length in a first-person piece for The Telegraph in Britain.

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