Waiting for Mother Russia – In two Acts

About the Project

Waiting for Mother Russia – In Two Acts documents the daily tensions between pro-Russian and pro-Western residents of Eastern Ukraine. Sands’ balancing of portraits of political action and protest against more mundane snapshots of daily life highlights the complexity in the relations between these two communities.

Core ideas of Ukrainian identity evolved over many centuries as borders in the region were impacted by various military and political conflicts throughout the evolution of modern Europe. Between 1921 and 1991, like many of its neighbors, Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. After independence, residents in the central and western parts of the country celebrated their Ukrainian identity. However, large numbers of eastern residents, particularly in the areas of Donbass and Crimea, remained tied to their ethnically Russian roots.

The 2013 Maidan protests in Kiev along with the then president Viktor Yanukovych’s signature of a trade deal with Russia is regarded as the beginning of this crisis. In mid-February 2014, these protests evolved into violent clashes between police forces and protesters. In the days that followed, Yanukovych was impeached and a pro-Western government was set up until elections could be held. In response, protests against the interim government broke out across pro-Russian eastern Ukraine, with sparatists seizing the Donbass region and Putin sending troops to “reclaim” Crimea. Eventually a ceasefire was signed, after several years of violence, an estimated 8,000 people, including children and the elderly, have been killed, and 1.5 million people were internally displaced. 

The 2014 conflict in Ukraine has come back into the media due to the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces. The current conflict in Ukraine highlights similiar tensions between Russia and Ukraine and has gained international attention as millions of refugees have left Ukraine and the use of deadly weapons in areas populated by civilians and potential war crimes have been documented in a number of regions. 

Waiting for Mother Russia – In Two Acts depicts both the dramatic and banal aspects of life in conflict. As the country is currently engaged in an ongoing war with Russia, hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians have died, and the war shows no sign of ending. This is exhibit provides important historical context for the current conflict in Ukraine and can be used to bring increased awareness to the war. 

about the artists


Wil Sands is an American documentary photographer currently based in D.C.

Public Program

February 11, 2016 

Nicholas Senn High School

February 4, 2016

625 N. Kingsbury St., Chicago

Panel discussion

In February 2016, AWP hosted a panel discussion for Waiting for Mother Russia – In Two Acts as part of the 625 at 625 program, which is a series of free exhibitions, community conversations, panel discussions, film screenings, concerts, and more. Members of the panel included;

  • Wil Sands, photographer
  • Tetyana Dzyadevych, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Lev Holubec, PwC

625 at 625: Waiting for Mother Russia – In Two Acts

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New York installation of Congo/Women

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