Faversham Life

An inside view

The imposition of war

Posted: 15th July, 2022 Category: People

Photographer Perou documents a convoy delivering critical medical supplies and training to hospitals and the front line in Ukraine

Words Posy Gentles Photographs Perou

The paediatric hospital in Kyiv, targeted by the Russians at the beginning of the war. Ilona is seven. She came to hospital with posterior fossa tumour

Perou the photographer has just returned to Ukraine after a brief break with his family in Faversham, to continue documenting the work of Medics4Ukraine, which is delivering much-needed medical supplies to Ukrainian hospitals, and ‘trauma boxes’ and training to the front line. Many of his photographs are beautiful, making the subjects all the more shocking: A little girl in the Kyiv paediatric hospital looks like a portrait of a Renaissance infanta, but her elaborate headdress is created from the tubes and tapes keeping her alive.

Faversham Life spoke to him the day before he left. Perou is angry – ‘Fuck Putin. Fuck Russia’ occur frequently in his writings – and sees what is happening as a horrific parallel universe. ‘In some Ukrainian villages, it’s like being in Selling or Doddington where you couldn’t ever imagine this happening – and the Ukrainians in those villages couldn’t have imagined it either.’

Berezivka. Perou says: ‘The Russians tortured and murdered the village leader and her family and dumped them in a sewer. More than 50 bodies were found in an open grave in the woods’. And still there are the blossoming fruit trees and the raised beds

Berezivka. Perou says: ‘This dog was shaking like it had PTSD; same as the young lad showing us around the village’

Lviv is a beautiful European city says Perou – fountains, drifting blossom and handsome architecture but every day there are sirens (everyone has air raid warning apps on their phones) and in the hospitals are people like us with their legs blown off.

Perou says: ‘It’s really the stories that they shared with us that hit hard, as well as seeing their injuries. It seems so totally unjust that these life-changing injuries and loss of their loved ones has been imposed on them. They were just getting on with their lives when some little man with ego problems decides he wants to “make Russia great again” and sends his army to devastate and crush the neighbours.’

Maxim Savchenko Mykolaiv

From Perou’s diary: ‘Maxim is from south Ukraine. He is 35 years old. He was a chef. One night he got up to pee as his house was struck with missiles, killing his girlfriend and blowing half off both his legs. He managed to use makeshift tourniquets to prevent himself from bleeding out and was found in the mud outside his house by a military medic on patrol the next morning’

Vyacheslav is 48. He’s from the Severodoneck, Donbas region. He was going to a shelter and got caught by artillery. He lost his wife and doesn’t know if his relatives are still alive

Holy Trinity Day celebrations in Lviv. From Perou’s diary: ‘It’s a national holiday in Ukraine and the streets are full of people in Lviv. I mean, they’d be full anyway because there’s double the amount of people there since the war started and displaced so many from their homes. Again, easy to imagine there’s not a war on here but this caught my eye: starting them young.’ The poster reads: ‘It’s not bad if you miss – it’s only bad if you don’t shoot!’

In Lviv, a sign that translates as ‘Like dew on the sun: losses of the occupiers’, and a bit of a Russian fighter jet on display in Lviv town square

The merest glance at Perou’s website will tell you that he has not been a war photographer. His usual scene is music and fashion photography, and portraits of the famous, from Boris Johnson and Al Gore to Marilyn Manson and Helen Mirren. His involvement with Ukraine happened at the suggestion of explorer Professor Mark Hannaford, whose portrait Perou had done about 15 years ago.

Perou says: ‘Here’s Luca delivering a “trauma box” full of essential frontline meds and equipment to some soldiers heading back to the frontline. So far, World Extreme Medicine has raised over £1m, and 100 per cent of that money is spent on medicine and medical equipment. All of the logistical expenses of running these training courses and getting the meds to the right people in Ukraine, are being covered by WEM’

Hannaford is the founder of World Extreme Medicine (WEM), a global network delivering medical training and expertise to extreme, low resource environments. In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, they used this expertise to set up Medics4Ukraine. It runs on donations and volunteers, and is looking to raise more money. Click here to donate. Any money given is underwritten by WEM so that it goes straight into trauma supplies delivered to the front line and Ukrainian hospitals. Perou says: ‘Seeing that I was writing stuff about how outraged I was by what was going on, he invited me to join them and document the second convoy delivering lifesaving aid to Ukraine.’

Ukranian and UK volunteers running the Medics4Ukraine convoy: Andreii, Stephan, Luca, Mark, Nazarii

From Perou’s diary: ‘Back to Ukraine, into the dark. My second visit. I meet Mark, who founded World Extreme Medicine, and advanced paramedic Luca of #Medics4Ukraine and fly to east Poland where SvL meets us and drives us across the border to Lviv. It feels awkward to ask her “How are you doing?” because she always answers “OK”, but she says it with a serious intenseness. It’s not fun times here: Ukraine’s at war; people are dying every day, fighting for their lives, for their freedom and their country’

Unpaid and uncomfortable – squeezing three in the back of a Peugeot 308 for 10 hours at a stretch (Perou is a tall man), sleeping top to tail on sofa beds and in fire stations for little more than four hours a night – it’s a huge contrast to Perou’s usual modus operandi.

But Perou is on a mission: ‘I am compelled to return to Ukraine to do whatever I can with my limited skills, because I feel like the war is a great injustice. It didn’t need to happen. Putin and Russia’s actions are simply wrong, and it feels unacceptable to me that in this supposed age of civilisation, this barbaric action could be considered. Little man Putin feels like a bully, and bullies need to be stood up to.’

As this goes to press, Perou is in the Ukraine for the fourth time to cover the stories of more Ukrainian civilians, to start a dialogue. He wants to rebalance ‘the bullshit, propaganda and stupidity displayed over the Internet. People telling me the bodies lying in the street in Bucha were actors playing dead is almost as offensive as there being dead bodies in the street in Bucha.’

From Perou’s diary: ‘Svitlana Chernyak and her husband. Although #Medics4Ukraine are principally involved in delivering medicine and equipment for the frontline, they also try to help with requests for specific medication across the whole country. We start the day at a hospital, meeting patients who are directly benefitting from the supplies of hydrocortisone that WEM have supplied. Svitlana (58) is recovering from a tumour and pituitary cancer’

Perou took the following photographs in the savaged towns of Hostomel, Bucha and Irpin. Two soldiers who took part in the WEM training, Andreii and Yurii, both students until a couple of months ago, guided them through the wreckage of people’s everyday lives. Perou says: ‘I really feel when I’m in Ukraine that they’re brave and fighting for Europe, and want to be European not Russian.’

The exterior of a gas station bombed by the Russians

Destroyed apartment block in Irpin

Destroyed shopping center in Bucha

Another destroyed residence in Irpin

EU flag hung from a bombed out window in Irpin

Apartment block bombed by the Russians in Hostomel


This was the bowling alley

A bombed pharmacy

On the road to take Kyiv: 25 km west of Kyiv in the Makaribs-kyi district where there was fierce fighting and the Ukrainians managed to turn the Russians around. Artem aged 13 and Dennis aged 9 playing on a blown-out Russian tank

The road to Kyiv. Perou’s Diary: ‘Kyiv is MUCH bigger than you could realise from watching TV news. The inner city is very charming: it has a Parisian feel: some cobbled streets, European architecture. There WOULD be outside seating for the cafes
but Kyiv is quite empty’

Perou and a Ukrainian special forces soldier briefly back in Kyiv, who met WEM to discuss what medical supplies they need on the front-line and to take back some trauma boxes

To donate to Medics4Ukraine, click here.

Follow Perou and Medics4Ukraine in Ukraine in his diary here.

To see more coverage and many more photographs, go to Zoot magazine.

Text: Posy Gentles. Photographs: Perou