Most postcards carry a simple sentiment: Wish you were here.
But the cards Anastasia Taylor-Lind and Alisa Sopova are mailing randomly to people around the globe convey a haunting message: Wish this stranger was still alive.
The pair hopes their postcards — each scribbled with the name of a victim of armed conflict in Ukraine — will put a human face on war.
Photo: Gisele Cassol via AP
“I wanted people to have a more personal experience with conflict,” said Taylor-Lind, a photojournalist who was on assignment for National Geographic when inspiration struck in a post office in the middle of the war zone.
Fighting between Ukrainian government troops and Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 9,600 people in eastern Ukraine since it began in 2014. Ukraine filed a case against Russia this month at the UN’s highest court, accusing Moscow of illegally annexing Crimea and illicitly bankrolling rebel groups.
Although the shelling has diminished, Taylor-Lind feels compelled to keep alive the memories of those on all sides who have perished.
At a post office in the embattled city of Slavyansk, she came across postcards with idyllic scenes: a cityscape framed by a river and blossoming trees; lovers embracing at twilight along a moonlit promenade. Printed on them was a cheerful greeting in English: “Welcome to Donetsk,” the capital of the Donbass region and ground zero for the conflict.
In the summer of 2015, Taylor-Lind ordered 1,000 cards and began addressing them to people around the world she had never met. Some were chosen at random; others had responded to her vague offer via social media of a postcard — not knowing what they would get.
That launched a continuing project that gained momentum last year while she was at Harvard University on a fellowship. Each carried a cryptic message with the name of a casualty of war and the date that he or she died.
“The war in Ukraine isn’t something that happened and then just went away. The lives and livelihoods of millions were affected,” she said. “This was very much an experiment. I didn’t know how people would react.”
React they have, with anger, shock, confusion and sadness.
A few recipients initially puzzled over the cards, which are postmarked in Ukraine, worrying whether someone in their household had lost a friend. Eventually, and by the hundreds, they have shared their thoughts using the hashtags #WelcomeToDonetsk and #WarIsPersonal.
Some have carried their cards to a leafy park, a remote beach or a tranquil mountainside, and held a moment of solitary remembrance for a fellow human they never met. Others have posed their cards next to lighted candles and posted photos and videos in somber tribute .
Jochem Lindelauf, of Groningen, Netherlands, was left reeling when he got a card that read: “Artem Gorlenko was killed in Spartak on Tuesday the 13th of October 2015.”
Oct. 13 is Lindelauf’s birthday.
“The crazy coincidence of my birthday brought it even more home for me,” he said in an Instagram post.
Taylor-Lind, an English-Swedish national now at the Carey Institute for Global Good in Rensselaerville, New York, and Sopova, a journalist from Donetsk doing her Nieman Fellowship at Harvard this year, have mailed more than 2,000 postcards to people in 60-plus countries.
Trying to identify those killed has been a challenge. Neither the Ukrainian government nor the UN maintains a comprehensive list, forcing Sopova to spend many hours scouring news reports and gruesome photographs posted online, as well as corresponding with officials and others back in Ukraine.
“It means nobody cares,” Sopova said. “And that makes this project even more important.”
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
INTERNET CURBS: People are rushing to erase their digital footprints after police given powers over online activity, although it might take years for the full effect to be felt At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s Internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of contentious new national security legislation, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech, and force Internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the legislation took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the past year of protests. Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok (莫乃光), a pro-democracy member of the Legislative