In early February, as war between Russia and Ukraine became increasingly likely, Globe and Mail correspondent Paul Waldie – paired with local photographer and long-time Globe contributor Anna Liminowicz – travelled to Poland to tell the story of how the conflict might impact a close European neighbour.
Then on the 24th war broke out. Waldie and Liminowicz became witnesses to the mass exodus of millions of Ukrainians fleeing across the border into the town of Przemysl, with many families broken as men stayed behind to fight in the war.
After the first long days of reporting, photographing and speaking with refugees about their futures and what they’ve left behind, it was Liminowicz’s husband who asked, casually: I wonder what they have in their bags?
This simple question prompted Liminowicz to build the concept of a very personal photo-driven story, and she set to work with Waldie over the course of four days in a shelter at the Polish border gathering images and stories. Back in Canada, The Globe’s design team built a nimble visual framework for the story so it could be published as soon as possible once the material landed on our visual desk in Toronto.
Liminowicz photographed each subject anonymously, focusing on their hands and their chosen objects: a pine cone, a passport, family photographs. A music box, a Harry Potter book, a Ukrainian flag.
Accompanied by short text and a sparse, intimate digital design, the series helps draw a personal connection amid the horror of war and staggering numbers of refugees and displaced people. Many readers were prompted to ask themselves the same question: If you had to leave everything you know behind, what is the one object you would take with you?