Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Faces Portray the Human Cost of War

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Faces Portray the Human Cost of War

Article excerpt

Byline: By Tamzin Lewis

Photographer Heidi Bradner has recorded a nation traumatised by war. Tamzin Lewis talked to her about her experiences.

In Chechnya, a traditional greeting is "Come in freedom" while a farewell is "Go in freedom".

It is the acknowledgement of a people aspiring for autonomy but tyrannised by war throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

Following the Second World War, during which the oil-rich country was invaded by the Nazi army, Soviet dictator Stalin ordered the mass deportation of the Chechen population to Siberia and Central Asia.

Many thousands died before the people were repatriated when the republic of Chechnya was re-established in 1957.

Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has waged two brutal wars against separatist Chechnya, in 1994 and 1999 during which more than 200,000 civilians and 38,000 combatants have died.

It is against this backdrop that award-winning photojournalist Heidi Bradner has documented life in Chechnya over a 10-year period. Her striking, disturbing but moving photographs are exhibited in two linking exhibitions at Newcastle's Side Gallery.

A Decade of War in Chechnya charts the effects of war upon civilians, while The Lost Boys: Portraits of Russian Soldiers gives an impression of young inexperienced soldiers sent to their deaths.

Born and brought up in Alaska, Heidi says: "In these photographs I have tried to give a human face to all the victims of this war; the teenage conscripts; the ethnic Russian residents living in Grozny; and of course the Chechens themselves in the rubble of their country, victims of human rights abuses and atrocities who have little recourse to help, justice or a political and economic solution that would usher in a lasting peace."

She adds: "In a sense I wanted these photos to be anti-war by showing what war in general can do. I also show that the Chechen people pictured could be anybody; a mother or a child anywhere, not in some far away region. On the other hand, the young Russian soldiers appear almost as prisoners of war, a generation brutalised by these wars. …

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