MANHATTAN — Brooklyn-based photographer Anton Trofymov was visiting his mother in Kiev last November when the pro-European Union protest movement began.
Trofymov, 47, photographed the first month of the protests, which eventually turned into a revolutionary movement with tens of thousands of people occupying the central square in Kiev, the Maidan.
The photographer will have 10 pieces on display in the Upper East Side’s Ukrainian Institute of America at 2 E. 79th St. Oct. 20 through Oct. 27, along with three other photographers who documented the movement, as part of exhibition “Maidan. Ukraine. Road to Freedom.”
“It was a reaction of the people because it was a last chance, because people understand after that...Russia wants to restore the Soviet Union...to try and control Kazakhstan and the former Soviet Union Republics,” Trofymov said.
“So I saw hundreds of thousands of people in the street. It was absolutely peaceful,” he said of the initial protests before the clashes with police.
Trofymov juxtaposes his photos of the demonstrations with archival footage from movies shot in Ukraine before and immediately after the Russian Revolution to create 16-by-40-inch pieces.
The photographer said he saw similarities between the violence in 2013 and what happened in 1918 when the Bolsheviks came to Kiev.
“Faces [were] the same,” Trofymov said. “Crowd like one body. A lot of fear in the faces.”
What started as a peaceful protest on Nov. 21 last year turned violent on Nov. 30 when police tried to push students out of the square. Many of the photos in the new Ukrainian Institute exhibit captured the dramatic confrontations between protesters and police.
Images by Maxim Dondyuk include a protester throwing a burning tire beneath a wall of black smoke.
The exhibit will also include artifacts from the protests, like Molotov cocktails, clubs and gas masks.
Trofymov found much of the archival footage for the show in the late ‘80s into the ‘90s when he worked as a director’s assistant in Ukraine.
He came up with the idea to combine the images with exhibit organizer Alexander Demko.
“That brings the shadows to now because people don’t know history,” he said about the archival footage showing Russian hegemony. “People don’t know who is Ukrainian, who is Russian.”
Trofymov and his wife, Inga Koroleva, 45, would eventually like to move from Coney Island back to Ukraine to be closer to their families, but they are waiting until their 17-year-old daughter gets a little older.
Continued violence in the eastern part of the country between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian army causes them daily anxiety.
“We can’t sleep," he said. "We check on Facebook daily.”
"Maidan. Ukraine. Road to Freedom" is at Upper East Side’s Ukrainian Institute of America at 2 E. 79th St. Oct. 20-27