Behind the Mask
Igor Yefimov has been involved in documentary photography for about ten years. He is the author of personal and group exhibitions in different parts of the world, namely in Belarus, Moldova, Croatia, Poland, France, Austria, USA, and other countries. He is the winner of international competitions and street photography festivals. We publish one of Igor’s photo projects, in which for over a year he took pictures of children battling cancer, raising funds for the treatment of little pediatric cancer patients.
“In my spare time, I used to visit the Regional Oncology Clinic in Cherkasy. At first, we were playing and getting to know each other. The kids got used to me little by little, I started taking their photos only later. I wanted not just to take beautiful pictures, but also to help them. I thought, if my photos help to encourage donations, and the money is enough to save at least one life, it will be a great victory.
These children had to face trying times. They are still young, but at times their views of life seemed to be very mature. Unfortunately, we did not manage to save most of the children in these photos. Sometimes, before my next visit to the hospital, volunteers informed me of someone’s death. I got to know all the children quite well, so every such news was very painful for me.
In cooperation with a charity foundation I organized several exhibitions in various places, with the first one taking place in the children’s ward of the Oncology Center. It amazed me that some physicians who used to interact with the children in my photos on a daily basis were crying looking at the pictures. When we are just told about sick children, we still cannot fully understand what they have to go through. It is a totally different thing to see the illustrations of their suffering. In this situation, photos help raise more money. After several exhibitions, we managed to get enough money for chemotherapy and other medications for many children.”
Svitlana Fedorova, founder and director of the Give the World to Children charity foundation:
“Igor was the first photographer at the Oncology Center to be allowed to shoot everywhere, even in the procedure rooms during punctures. He was also the first one who came not just to take a few photos of the children, but to produce a comprehensive art product that helped raise funds.
Our foundation has a project to make dreams come true for those children walking a thin line between life and death. Ten years ago, Kuzma Skryabin visited the project’s first ward Andriy at his home. At the time, it never occured to us that it was worth taking photos of such moments. Igor was the one to record happy moments in the life of our second ward—Renata. The girl dreamed of seeing dolphins, and we managed the difficult journey in a vehicle especially fitted to transport bedridden patients, to get into the dolphinarium. Also, we took her out for walks in the park. When the girl was admitted to the hospital, she was given just a few months to live. Due to the efforts of healthcare professionals and positive emotions, Renata lived for another three years.
According to official statistics, 80% of cases of pediatric cancer can be cured. Lera was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 4. It was during her treatment that we arranged a New Year’s celebration in the ward. Igor recorded the happy moment when Lera exuberantly tried on a festive dress. Lera is now attending school, trains to be a dancer and is feeling well.
Another patient, who also appears in Igor’s photographs, was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma—a malignant soft tissue tumor—at the age of 16. In two years, he was cured and went to the World Children’s Winners Games—international sports competitions for young cancer survivors. He won three medals in different disciplines. Such victories motivate to keep on living a full life. Later, Taras trained to become a baker at a culinary school. He and his brother even opened a bakery in their village.”
[This publication was created with support of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Ukraine. The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Norwegian government].