My name is Maxim Dondyuk and I’m a 29 y.o. documentary photographer living in Ukraine. I used to be a photojournalist covering news events in Ukraine, but two years ago I quit and started in documentary photography.
In 1995, the World Health Organization declared the tuberculosis epidemic in Ukraine. Over the past 16 years the situation has greatly worsened. Each day TB takes lives of 30 people, annually - about 10 thousand.
In December 2010, I went to Donbass region in Ukraine. I was greatly influenced by what I saw on the first day. One of the first patients I had photographed was suffering from gastrointestinal tuberculosis. He was lying naked on a hospital bed and staring at the ceiling. A week later I was with him in the last hours of his life. He could not move or talk, his body was like a skeleton covered with skin. He clutched a cross to his chest and prayed. Afterwards I met his wife and she told me how he had walked around the house with a torn stomach and intestines dragging across the floor, because the ambulance had refused to transfer him to the hospital. They had to call for a taxi. After a while I realized that this happens all over the country and that the epidemic of tuberculosis has become one of the national problems.
A lot of prisons amnesty the convicts in serious health conditions so as not to spoil their mortality figures. Two-thirds of former prisoners are dissolved in the country without being kept under medical supervision. Hospitals are in a terrible state and all phthisiology keeps on doctors who are long overdue to retire. Patients with drug-resistant TB have to use public transport to receive medical supplies and food and those without money just die in their beds. In the midst of current political wars in Ukraine everybody is just indifferent to the problem of tuberculosis.
For me it is very important to communicate truthfully what I have witnessed. And for that I must experience the problem myself, because my goal is to convince the viewer and to convince others you must first convince yourself. I live in hospitals with other patients, sometimes I stay in patients’ homes. I realized recently that taking pictures is not enough; I began to use a dictaphone to record their stories and made videos for a future multimedia. Everyone I tell about is close to me. I’ve known each of them for several months, lived a part of my life with them and buried some of them.
I will plan to continue shooting project of the TB epidemic in other countries of the former Soviet Union. - Maxim Dondyuk