Ukrainian high school students recently posed for a series of harrowing graduation photos, juxtaposing their youth and tentative optimism with the horrific ravages of war in their home country.
Photographer Stanislav Senyk told Reuters he wanted to document the “very important story” of around 40 students graduating from schools in Chernihiv, northern Ukraine, after witnessing the horrors of war.
“I saw the kids that were there and it was kind of surreal,” Senyk said.
“I realized that I could write a very important story at that time, about school children who were graduating and who had witnessed the war, and because of that, their graduation, their prom, their everything, everything just cracked up,” he said. “It was very important to capture that memory.”
One of the photos shows a group of students huddled atop a float. Another features a group of girls in a bombed-out building, others looking down from the gutted floors above.
The students described the experience as difficult, but important.
“We wanted to show that we live in such realities,” 17-year-old Olha Babynets told Reuters. “We wanted to show our pain, which is there and has never subsided. It was difficult emotionally, but we tried to hold on. And I think we succeeded in doing that.
In another series of photos taken by Abdullah Unver for Anadolu Agency, Ukrainian students forced to skip their prom posed in their dancing gear in the rubble of their bombed-out school in Kharkiv.
KHARKIV, UKRAINE – JUNE 7: A student wearing her prom dress poses for a photo among the ruins of her school destroyed in a Russian bombardment on February 27, in Kharkiv, Ukraine on June 7, 2022. Teenagers in their dresses qu they would have worn for their prom held a graduation ceremony at their destroyed school. (Photo by Abdullah Unver/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) (Photo: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.