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The magazine of the art-form of the photo-essay “A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous!” Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
April 2014 issue
Donbas Ukraine
by Valerie Myronenko
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Donbas, Ukraine. Known for its various coal mines, is considered home to some of the most hazardous working conditions in the world. And yet, coal mining serves as the only source of income for many families receiving tax support from the government. While most of the mining projects operate under the government, a recent rise of illegal mining has begun to spread across the region to pursue efficiency and increase profit. While creating millions of dollars in revenue, working hours upon hours under exposed coal dust and methane can take a debilitating toll on the workers’ personal safety. Toronto-based photographer Valerie Myronenko documents and uncovers the truth about critical working conditions for both government and illegal workers in Donbas. Her journey begins at the underground mines, only to discover that there’s another side of Ukraine that’s on fire – only this one fuels the struggling economy.
Illegal coal mines are spread throughout Donbas, some of them reaching 1 km wide.
A man operates the hoist created using metal wires and Soviet car engines, used to pull workers and bathtubs with coal out of the mine.
Workers wait outside before starting their shift. Despite the nature of their work, most of them are still content.
A worker unloads a bathtub full of coal that was pulled out by the car engine.
A coal miner waits in aluminum tubs waiting to roll into the mines as small as 50 cm high and 100 metres deep. Miners have little to no protection from coal dust and methane explosions whilst inside.
Government mines are not miles ahead; operators and equipment in government mines haven’t seen change since the Soviet era.
Segei Ivanovich, head engineer of one of the many government operated coal mines in Donbas answers a call in his Soviet inspired office.
The day shift gathers for a smoke after six hours spent in a government-operated coal mine with little to no equipment but their hard hats.
This factory is 114 years old and has seen many generations of town people.
Blast furnace worker.
Major control room of a steel plant. Workers proudly welcome the new addition to their office: a video camera which lets them take better control of the factory.
A river of molten steel flows through the factory and surrounds the blast furnace.
Although workers often comapre their workplace to living hell, most of them take pride in their dangerous job.
Two elderly women stop at a kiosk in the town to purchase small packaged goods. Kiosk transactions are made through small windows, displaying only the hand of the store owner.
Twin sisters sell sunflower seeds, a popular snack, before a football game.
Ukrainians celebrate a national holiday on the 9th of May, also known as the day of victory.  Most residents of Donbas sincerely miss Soviet times, before the fall and decay brought by independence.
Ukraine is one of the poorest countries in the ex-Soviet block. Years of extreme corruption and economical difficulties has left the elderly population on the edge of poverty.
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