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cаша | sasha – The story of two refugees from Ukraine

In October 2021, Tizian Machtolf contacted us about an internship at Solo and soon the idea was born that he could do a documentary photo series about the skate scene in Kiev (about which a documentary had just been made). Tizian began to plan and also to look for funding, but suddenly in February 2022 the Russian troops invaded Ukraine and nothing was the same as before. The project was no longer possible in its planned form, but Tizian continued on his own and found a new way to portray Ukrainian skaters. He accompanied Sasha Lipovoy and Sasha Mysnyk as they found their feet in their new home in Germany. Their story has now been turned into a photo book.

Cawa Sasha 7

Sasha Mysnyk, Sasha Lipovoy

Tizian says he was nervous when he started this project and already felt guilty. He was the privileged one, living a comfortable life in a safe country and was worried to exploit Sasha Lipovoy and Sasha Mysnyk for a story. But in the end he created a book about friendship, a book about teenage life and a book about what it’s like to arrive in a foreign world and how skateboarding can help making it less scary.

“The younger of the two, Sasha Lipovoy, came to Düsseldorf together with his mother from Kharkiv via Poland. Sasha Mysnyk fled from Kropyvnytskyi to Solingen with his girlfriend, his mother and his little brother. Both told me that they really appreciated the offer and helpfulness that was shown to them. They were immediately welcomed into the skateboarding scene and connected well. The community in Düsseldorf organized and distributed boards. Sasha L. told me, quite depressed, that his completely new setup was still in Kharkiv at his grandma’s house. I got to know the two Sashas through Ilya Merkushev from Titus Düsseldorf, who helped translate in the beginning. They now speak German really well and there is no longer a language barrier. I think skateboarding really helps with integration and allows you to make contacts quickly. The exchange and encounters is definitely a strength of the culture. Sasha L. still goes to school in Germany, is part of a community of Ukrainian skaters from NRW and feels quite at home. Nevertheless, he can hardly wait to get back to his real home. Sasha M. has lived in Dresden for a while and is now back in Solingen to train as a chef. He is also planning to move to Kiev one day when all the madness is over and open a restaurant there.”

Tizian initial idea was to get to know them and only document their arrival but quickly that developed into a friendship, they started hanging out together a lot and Tizian always had his camera with him:

“After a while, I edited a few pictures and decided to turn them into a book. A year after we met, in February 2023, I had the opportunity to have a solo exhibition about the project at Projektor Dortmund. At that time, there was already a small edition of the book. After a long back and forth and a few discussions with publishers, I decided to publish the book properly at the beginning of this year, as I felt the message of the book was very important beyond the story and wanted to share it.”

You can order the book here.