Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been strongly noticed around the world, including in Sweden, where Paraparaumu Beach photographer Joanna Piatek is staying.
Joanna has been in Stockholm, her hometown, since November due to a family crisis.
She watches as thousands of Ukrainian refugees are embraced by Sweden.
Joanna has documented the situation and is preparing an exhibition when she returns to the coast to help generate more help.
“I want to portray the feeling of love and care, fear and helplessness and the acceptance of fear among ordinary people.”
She said that when the Russian invasion of Ukraine started, there was a feeling in Sweden, which is not part of NATO, that it was a little too close for comfort, worries about what would happen next and how prepared the country was if it was withdrawn in conflict.
There are centuries of history that describe the rivalry between Russia and Russia’s upper northern borders with Finland and Sweden.
Russia and Putin are for Swedes today what Peter the Great was in the early 18th century – at a time when the fear of Russia’s “Russophopia” appeared, she said.
– The Swedes have, just like many others, of course been a bit at the forefront.
Sweden was no stranger to helping the needy, she said, citing that the country opened its arms to 163,000 refugees in 2015 who sought asylum.
And now, with the Ukraine conflict, she estimates that around 20,000 people have so far made it safely to Sweden, with an estimated 80,000 arriving before the summer.
She said that a few kilometers from where she lives, in the small port town of Nynäshamn, there is a daily ferry connection to and from Gdansk in Poland.
“A few hundred women and children, about 4,000 daily to Sweden, arrive from Ukraine with this ferry every day.
“The first thing they get after passing customs is a hot coffee and a sandwich and fruit followed by eager gifts of strollers, toys, diapers, sanitary ware and internet sim cards from well-meaning local charities and companies.
“Their first destination after that is the immigration office.
“People are opening their homes and communities are being urged by the government to provide housing.
“The Ukrainian people are being led into society, some already have families here.
“They get free hospital care and the children will go to school.
“The local commuting system in Stockholm has posters stating that if you have a Ukrainian passport or ID, you can travel for free.”
And for the first time in many years, the Swedish government invested heavily in its own military defense.
“They are recruiting and dusting off a massive 65,000 bomb shelters across the country.
Swedes are urged to be prepared, check their nearest shelter, to look out to sea for foreign submarines or objects and talk to their children about fear.
“Tent kitchens had sold out and iodine pellets were hot as toilet paper under Covid.”
Swedish TV programs and concerts were busy raising money.
“With the push of a button on our mobile phones, money is given.
“Some also packed cars and trailers with supplies, including medicine, battery chargers, diapers and more, before driving east and” had to take the ferry to Poland. “
She said the invasion had made her read about the history of the key countries involved.
“It has made me angry, frustrated and scared.
“My thoughts are simply in chaos for these poor people [from Ukraine]especially the children. “
Joanna, like most people around the world, wants to see one thing.
“I want an end to this invasion of Ukraine.”