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Maks Levin: Keeping the Realities of War in the World's Consciousness - by Kira McClure

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    • Kira McClure at Pima Community College

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    For as long as humanity has lived on this earth, there has been war and bloodshed. Peace is a localized phenomenon that can vanish just as quickly as it can appear. Before February 2022, most of the international community thought little of the Russo-Ukrainian Conflict. While many were sympathetic during the initial incursions in 2014, most chalked it up as some damned foolish event in the Donbas that would blow over eventually. However, some weren’t willing to let this conflict fade into the background. Maks Levin was one of many journalists who risked their lives to keep the realities of war in the world’s consciousness.

    Levin, a Kyiv native, yearned to be a photographer from a very young age. However, it wasn’t till after he graduated from university that he decided to pursue the profession full-time (Левин, 2016). According to Maks, he never set out to become a war photographer. When the Donbas conflict started in 2015, Levin immediately rushed to the Luhansk region, to cover the real situation along the front lines. There, he felt as if he finally found the stories that he was meant to cover all along (Akage).

    Over the next eight years, he worked tirelessly to document how normal soldiers and everyday people dealt with the toll of trench warfare and routine conflict. He faced numerous close calls and was even awarded the Order of Merit for his daring escape from the Ilovaisk Pocket (Ukrayinska Pravda, 2022). However, like many other photojournalists, his luck ran out eventually.

    The days leading up to Levin’s death were not too dissimilar from many of his other days covering the Russo-Ukrainian Conflict. Practically hugging the front line, Levin was using a camera drone to gather footage of Russian maneuvers in the region near the village of Moshchun when he captured something important. We may never know what he saw that day, but Levin believed that the footage was so important that it was worth entering Russian-controlled territory to retrieve (the drone having been downed on March 10th). On the 13th of March, he jumped in his car and raced to the forests of Moschun, hell-bent on recovering the footage. He never made it home (RSF, 2022).

    From this point on, we can only glean details from the surviving evidence on the scene of his execution. His car, charred and shot up, right next to a Russian trench position. His corpse, with two shots to the head and one to the chest, was found looted of all its valuable items. His phone, his press body armor, his shoes...all taken by his executioners. While the exact unit is still being determined, it is theorized that he was killed either by members of the Russian 106th Guards Airborne Division or deployed elements of the 64th Motorized Rifle Brigade of the Russian Army. Given the presence of DNA evidence at the scene, one can hope that one day, the perpetrators of this crime will be brought to justice (Froger & Chauvel, 2022).

    The biggest tragedy of any wartime casualty is the people and ideals that the fallen leave behind. Levin was a husband and father of four sons. He valued freedom of information and freedom of the press and was a leading figure in the Ukrainian journalism community (Froger & Chauvel, 2022). He was also a major player in the Ukrainian fatherhood movement, believing that every father should play an active and nurturing role in their child’s life; Something the war has taken away from his children forever (Ukrayinska Pravda, 2022).

    Levin hoped that his work would lead to a peaceful world. One where everyone lives decently and honestly... that he would want his children to live in. There will come a time, hopefully soon, when this war will be over. The rubble will be cleared, the air-raid sirens will be silent, and children will live without the threat of death looming over them. Maybe then, will his hopes become a reality (Левин, 2016).

    Works Cited:

    Akage, A. (n.d.). Searching for honesty in Ukraine's murky war - photographs and text by Maks Levin. LensCulture. Retrieved December 13, 2022, from

    Froger, A., & Chauvel, P. (2022, June). How Ukrainian journalist Maks Levin was executed by Russian forces - RSF. RSF. Retrieved December 14, 2022, from (2022, April 4). Kyiv pays last respect to photojournalist Max Levin. Retrieved December 13, 2022, from

    Levin, M. (n.d.). Maks Levin. LensCulture. Retrieved December 13, 2022, from

    RSF. (2022, March 17). Exclusive RSF investigation into the death of Maks Levin: "information and evidence collected indicates this Ukrainian journalist was executed.". RSF. Retrieved December 13, 2022, from

    Ukrayinska Pravda. (2022, April 2). Photojournalist Maks Levin found dead. Ukrayinska Pravda. Retrieved December 13, 2022, from

    Левин, М. (2016, June 8). Макс Левин. Retrieved December 13, 2022, from