Nikoletta Yurets


Documenting Ukraine Grants


Bureau is a documentary project on the activities of forensic medical experts during the war in Ukraine. Since February 24, the Kyiv City Clinical Bureau of Forensic Medical Examination (hereinafter “Bureau”) has continued to work without interruption. In the first few days of the full-scale war, about 70% of medical personnel left the capital, deciding to evacuate to safer places. The remaining staff have faced a catastrophe, with the soaring number of dead and the lack of personnel available to process so many bodies. Not only were there missile attacks on the civilian population and active combat actions on the streets of Kyiv, but the health of the populace was seriously undermined by the news and an unprecedented level of stress: elderly people died by the dozens from heart attacks, aggravation of chronic diseases, etc. 
My encounter with the Bureau began in the summer of 2022 in Kyiv morgue No. 1. My task was to photograph the bodies that were taken out of black bags for examination. If the body wasn’t fully damaged, I took pictures of tattoos and special signs of the military. These were  then compared with the internal base photos that the Patronage Service collects from the relatives. There were about 160 bodies. Most of the soldiers' bodies were in a horrifying, unrecognizable state. During the body identification process, the idea to document the Bureau’s work arose and I was granted permission to film the doctors and volunteers. 
The idea of collecting data and researching the activities of the Bureau during the war is aimed at gathering information on victims of armed conflicts, theoretical and practical forensic medical cases, and the stories of volunteers who supported the work of the Bureau even without the necessary qualifications and knowledge. Their everyday lexicon acquires terms related to memory, war, and genocide. Bureau examines the person-to-person action, respect, and dignified attitude to death in conditions of war, which I strive to record via photo, video, and text.

Grant on behalf of:
Untitled project / Visual Research, Focused on Documenting the Environmental Impact of War on Ukrainian Territory

I am studying gardens and the territories where war leaves its mark. I seek out people who have faced occupation authorities in their regions, individuals who know where people were tortured and killed. I collaborate with search groups that operate under state programs such as Black Tulip and On the Shield. These groups work in de-occupied territories to find the fallen and facilitate their transfer to the appropriate services, who can then conduct a proper burial ritual. The garden serves as an example of a medium of senses and comprehension. It fosters the opportunity of reflection and self-awareness as a thinking unit.

Robert Pogue Harrison, in Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition, writes that the garden represents a condition of personal thinking that resonates with my vision and analysis of the study. The garden, as a cultural object, is the result of actions that may not be witnessed during our lives, yet we erect and protect it as a place of joint action and hope, understanding its influence on our will.

The hardest thing that is given to people to share is grief. A culture of dealing with loss, where tears are an invisible part, like roots hidden underground, in a place where the body is wrapped around it. Services that search for bodies in the garden of war represent culture that is usually neglected. Building memory through successive steps of growing and cultivating the garden is as necessary as the growth of maturity. Given the appropriate means, space, and time to concentrate on artistic studies, I have no doubt that we will accomplish remarkable things.

Grant on behalf of: