Edward Matthews is a nightlife photographer. Well he was – until a trip to the edge of the warzone in Eastern Europe changed everything.
York nightclubs hired him to take photos of people enjoying a night out and then share albums to social media the following day. But Edward made a trip to the border with Ukraine and decided that there was a greater need for his services there.
He says he has been moved by the stories he has heard from people fleeing Russian aggression and is now crossing the border between Poland and Ukraine almost daily to help deliver food and aid.
Edward said: “I initially came to Poland as a photographer actually. And I had been invited by a another photographer from the Czech Republic, who had documented the start of the war in the Donetsk region of Ukraine.
“He knew I had an interest in ‘conflict photography’ and photo journalism and asked if I wanted to come along to document the process of refugees leaving the country.
“Very quickly, as we arrived, I realised that I didn’t want to just be there taking photos. So initially, I joined a group of local Polish people handing out humanitarian aid at one of the first train stops out of Ukraine which is in Przemyśl.
“So I left my job to come back to Poland because the place where I was working, said that they needed me to be back at work. However, I felt like my heart was still in Poland.
“So I actually handed in my notice the other day, and left my job to come back.
“Since coming back, I’ve joined a charity called the Siobhan’s Trust, which is based in Scotland.
“We’re distributing pizzas to people, both across in Ukraine and on the Polish side of the border.
“We currently have a fridge with approximately 16,000 pizzas in it and we’re churning out pizzas every couple of minutes with some new gas pizza ovens, which are absolutely fantastic.”
In the interview, for YorkMix Radio, which you can hear on the SoundCloud link above, Edward spoke of the people he had met who had undergone terrifying journeys to escape the Russian Army.
“Just the other day, I met a 90-year-old lady with her 70-year-old daughter, who’d come from Donetsk and the bus that they were trying to escape on, got shot by a group of Russian soldiers.
“They were amongst a handful of survivors from from that attack and just the sheer sadness in their face was just heartbreaking to witness.
“I just can’t even imagine what they’ve been through just to get to somewhere safe.”
Edward has set up a Go Fund Me page to support his work with refugees – you can donate here.
Writing on his social media yesterday he told the story of Micky.
“Today I spent some more time in Shehyni, Ukraine, handing out pizza to the queues. There was a real sense of emotion in the air at the border because of the horrific attack on Lviv. Whilst handing out pizza I made my way over to some Ukrainian soldiers at a gate who were very grateful for the hot food.
“One of them called me over and shook my hand before tearing his Ukrainian flag patch from his shoulder and placing it on mine.
“He told me I deserved it for what I was doing to help his people. I’m so humbled by his appreciation.
“On my way back across the border I also met Mickey who belongs to a lovely family who were struggling to carry all of their bags. I loaded up my trolley with their belongings and helped carry Mickey across the border too.”