ashland.news
July 14, 2024

‘These stories need to be told’: Ashland photographer returns — again — from Ukraine

Ukrainian widows left widowed by the Russian invasion. Photo courtesy of Chris Briscoe
June 27, 2024

Christopher Briscoe to give talk at Ashland library Saturday about his updated book, ‘The Child on the Train’

By Emma Coke, Ashland.news

Ashland photographer and author Christopher Briscoe will talk about the recently published second edition of his book “The Child on the Train: And Other Stories in War-torn Ukraine from 3 to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 29, in the Gresham room at the Ashland Public Library. 

The book, originally published in 2022, is filled with stories and photographs of the people he met during his initial three months in Ukraine. He went back again last October for another three months, returning with 10 new stories that he added, updating his book for its second edition. 

Christopher Briscoe in Ukraine

His talk will center around the people he met in Ukraine, sharing photos of them and their stories. Briscoe said the war in Ukraine is the biggest geopolitical event since World War II. He says he’s worried “America has forgotten.” 

“In the beginning when I was there, I had this huge Facebook following, and then Chris Rock got slapped at the Oscars, and then Johnny Depp got divorced,” Briscoe said. 

Briscoe wants everyone to know about the people of Ukraine, how they try to maintain a sense of normalcy despite the war, how they love and respect their country, and the many losses they have faced due to the war. 

“With every kind of project I do, it’s always about the people I meet,” Briscoe said.

One of the stories in his book is about Roksolana, who had lost her husband, Denis, to the war. Roksolana visits his grave three times a week now. 

Roksolana brings two cups of coffee to her late husband’s grave. Photo courtesy of Chris Briscoe

“She brings two cups of coffee, one for herself and one for her deceased husband, because that’s what they used to do, they used to love go out to coffee,” Briscoe said. “And now, Roksolana takes two cups of coffee.” 

He also has a story about refugees in Poland, a 10-year-old girl and her mother he met on his first trip. They told Briscoe about their efforts to leave Ukraine, about their ride to Poland that would normally take eight hours but instead took three days, about blown up suitcases and people running out of gas in the cold winter. 

“I asked the little girl, Julia, she’s like 10, ‘So Julia, what’s the one thing that you had to leave behind and keep at your home?’” Briscoe said. “And she said, ‘My pet snails.’”

When he returned last October, many of the people who left the country had returned home, including Julia and her mother. They invited him to dinner, where he asked Julia about her pet snails. 

“She said they all survived, and she went to show me their tank, and I asked how they survived,” Briscoe said. “She said, ‘They ate their young.’”

According to Briscoe, the theme of the talk is “Why am I here?” For Briscoe, his answer is to help the people he meets by sharing their stories. 

“You could smell the grief,” said Christopher Briscoe when describing the anguish and sadness of survivors in war-torn Ukraine. Christopher Briscoe photo

“On the last slide, I put up their contact information and I’m going to say ‘OK, I want everyone to bring out their phone out to take a picture of this slide. I want you to get a hold of them, send them a couple of bucks for a truck, Molotov cocktails or whatever,” Briscoe said. 

Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the talk. 

“All I want to do, my mission, is to let people know their stories,” Briscoe said. 

Email Ashland.news reporter intern Emma Coke at emmasuecoke@gmail.com.

June 28: Talk date corrected.

Related stories

Review: An Ashland news photographer shares work of intimacy and rawness (March 17, 2024)

Briscoe: ‘I have one foot on the plane’ (Nov. 13, 2023)

Ashland photojournalist returns from Ukraine (Sept. 15, 2022)

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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