Over fifteen million Ukrainians have left their homes since February 24th, 2022, the start of the invasion disingenuously termed a "special military operation" by the Russian president Vladimir Putin. With little guarantee of safety, many Ukrainians are domestically displaced, and many others have fled to neighboring countries to escape the war. Some have traveled as far as Germany, which by the end of 2022 had registered one million Ukrainian refugees, a disproportionately large number of whom are under eighteen years old. They—the young Ukrainians uprooted and compelled to remake their lives abroad, by forces beyond their control—are the focus of I called home.
In the spring of 2022, I began to regularly visit a refugee camp run by the Red Cross in Frankfurt-an-der-Oder, a river-adjacent city in eastern Germany that was the first point of entry for many Ukrainians who fled westward through Poland. Camp administrators would not permit me to photograph inside the camp. Instead, I began to meet with a group of teenagers on the camp's outskirts and in the city center, often finding them at a Kaufland (a German hypermarket) at which they congregated. The late spring and summer months were a liminal time for them; they had not yet begun school in Germany and spent much of their time roaming outdoors. I witnessed as within the space of a few months they constructed a new world among themselves: an inward-facing world with unspoken rules, love affairs, drama, secrets, dreams, and plans.
The teenagers I met and photographed had left behind friends, loved ones, and, many of them, their fathers. The title of the project, I called home, takes its name from the countless incoming and outgoing phone calls between those at the camp and those who remained behind. I hope to continue the project as many of the young people involved move from the camp into semi-permanent and permanent homes throughout Germany, and I hope to photograph them for as long as the phone calls continue.