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At the age of 12 in the USSR, I could assemble an AK-47 with my eyes closed. I had excellent marks in shooting and was fond of all types of weaponry. Guns were exciting to kids—we could spend hours playing war games and discussing military machinery.
Things are different in modern Ukraine. Children, particularly young ones, do not pay any attention to the firearms in their homes. On one occasion, I saw an armed father with three of his children around and none of them seemed to have the slightest interest in his rifle. It was as if he was holding a mop.
Ukrainian law does not grant citizens any particular right to bear arms. All the same, private gun ownership has become common here in recent years.
The only way to own a firearm legally in Ukraine is to purchase a rifle or a shotgun for hunting. In 2014, during the tragic events in Ukraine (Maidan, the annexation of Crimea, the conflict in Donbass), sales of hunting weapons in Ukraine increased several times over. By the end of 2014, there were more than 555,000 registered owners of rifles and shotguns—by March 2015, the number of weapon owners had increased to 750,000.
Personally, I don’t have a gun, and I think I will never own one. My camera is the perfect weapon. I shot these photos of Ukrainian civilians in their homes between October 2014 and February 2015 because I wanted to show ordinary citizens who are trying to protect themselves and their families from violence.