Hanna Hrabarska’s photo book about her refugee experience to be published in the Netherlands


You see an error in the text - select the fragment and press Ctrl + Enter

Ukrainian photographer Hanna Hrabarska has started a preorder campaign to raise funds for the publication of her photo book “My Mom Wants To Go Back Home”.

The book describes the story of fleeing to the Netherlands through the experience of the photographer’s mother.


“The story I shoot is purely intuitive — it’s impossible (and unnecessary) to think it through in advance. I capture what is happening without trying to think ahead. Even from the very name of the project, it cannot have any time frame — it will last until my mother comes home. At the same time, there is already a lot of footage, and I wanted the project to have a physical manifestation. Something that would give a sense of accomplishment,” Hrabarska told Chytomo in an exclusive commentary.


According to her, a book is the most organic format for such a project, since creating a book is a collaborative process in which the author has the opportunity to take a break and look at what he or she has created as if from the outside, while the designer or editor is working.


“Over the past year and a half, I have learned from my own experience that foreign audiences will never fully understand us. This is neither good nor bad, it is simply impossible because of the difference in experience. For non-Ukrainians, the war in Ukraine is an abstraction. They can empathize, help, and be involved, but if the war hasn’t affected you directly in one way or another, it’s impossible to understand. Still, my project is about displacement as one of the aspects of war. I think that in the general image of refugees — the image that the news creates for them (us) — their personality is often lost,” the photographer said.


According to Hanna Hrabarska, her project reveals aspects of life after crossing the border that cannot be fully disclosed in a news or reportage format, because it requires contemplation of one person’s life over a long period of time. “During this time, good and bad, funny and sad things happen. Some photos are tragic, some are funny. I think it is unfair to ‘customize the story to fit a certain narrative. Our lives go on and we remain the same people as before, no matter what label you put on us,” she added.


After the crowdfunding campaign, Hrabarska’s debut book is expected to be published by the independent international publishing house Jap Sam Books. The publisher collaborates with artists and makers all over the world, including East Europe, Asia and Africa, Canada, North and South America. However, this project is going to be the first collaboration with the Ukrainian artist.


“We decided to collaborate because we think that Hanna Hrabarska first of all is a talented photographer. This project shows her strength. She shows us the effects of the war in Ukraine from within, what it means to be a refugee, leave your country, and how it is in daily life. The project is personal and universal at the same time. We are happy to collaborate and Hanna has gathered a great book team around her,” the head of the publishing house Eleonoor Jap Sam explained.


“The beginning of the book is darker, like traveling at night. The closer they become to their end destination, the book becomes more hopeful and ‘lighter’ in tone. This gives a notion of time which is an important aspect in traveling. The book is accessible because it’s divided into chapters. Each chapter is starting and ending with a divider of different paper with text and a sequence of images, which turns it into a cinematic experience,” designer Edwin van Gelder told Chytomo.


A crowdfunding campaign is currently raising funds for the publication of the book. You can join the campaign here. The book will be available in distribution via Idea Books (for US and Canada) and Art Data (for UK).


As a reminder, the Ukrainian photo book was included in the list of the most favorite publications of 2022 in the Netherlands. 


Read also: How the world is helping a Ukrainian literature reach an international audience


Photo: Hanna Hrabarska