Fascinating images from Kyiv in 1990s show Ukrainian capital smiling

When Kyiv still smiled: Fascinating images from Ukraine’s capital in the 1990s reveal a joyful population… decades before Putin would begin his murderous war

  • ‘Kyiv – Moments in Time’ is a collection of hundreds of pictures dated between 1996 and 1999 in Ukraine
  • Photographer Peter Ford explores areas such as chess, architecture, musicians, people and fashion 

Fascinating images taken in Kyiv in the 1990s reveal a joyful population – decades before Putin would begin his murderous war. 

Hundreds of original pictures were taken by photographer Peter Ford, from Walsall in the West Midlands, during his time as a Foreign Office diplomat living in the Ukrainian capital from 1996 to 1999. 

‘Kyiv – Moments in Time’ portrays the captivating rhythms of everyday life in Kyiv, covering areas such as politics and protests, fashion, people, musicians, celebrations and architecture. 

The album’s proceeds are going to the Walsall Rotary Club and will help to deliver humanitarian aid to Ukraine. 

Mr Ford said he is still in touch with some of the friends he made while living in Ukraine and had been thinking of things he could do to help.  

He told the Express and Star: ‘The subjects of these photos are all regular people like you and me doing very normal things… just people loving life.

‘I really wanted to capture the richness of the place, the way that you could walk around Kyiv and Ukraine and just experience the musicians, the performances and the people.’ 

Efrem Lutasky, chief photographer at the Associated Press in Ukraine, said: ‘Little has been preserved of that period of Ukrainian life, and Peter’s works are an invaluable contribution to the history of Ukraine.’

Moments in Time will be available from the start of next month on www.kyivbook.shop – or to buy in Waterstones.  

Chess again! Taken from above, a group of men take a break from tanning in their swimming shorts to engage in a game (left); a game is played among football stands (right)

Ballet and fashion photography: Two women with their hair in ringlets don gorgeous gowns with shades of blue and gold at the Opera Theatre in Kyiv. The gowns were designed by the now-famous fashion designer Roksolana Bogutska and the stylist  Tatiana Tatarenko was prominent in the Russian film industry 

In Independence Square, music would play from violins and accordions and elderly couples would gather for a dance in the evenings. It would be closed off at weekends for traffic as an orchestra would play while they danced the night away 

‘Fun’ was Peter’s overarching feeling from Kyiv. He said it felt like a joyous place the whole time he was there

A tense boxing match shows the moment a fighter narrowly dodges a forceful punch from his opponent. Pictured is the Mayor of Kyiv’s brother Wladimir, who should be receiving a copy of the book

A priest blesses Dnipro River before a traditional New Years plunge – as crowds gather to take their turn

Ford captured some of life’s moment important moments. A groom leans in to kiss his fresh-faced bride as she laughs (left); a crowd gathers round to play chess (right) – very important in Kyiv

Young talent! A little boy in a red checked shirt and striped trousers holds and plays an accordion in the middle of the street. Mr Ford said music played such a big part in life and the little boy was very good in his performance

One of the things that hasn’t changed is the Ukrainian’s love for football – in the 1990s players are pictured in the middle of a nail-biting game. Pictured here is the Dynamo team – one of the best in Europe at the time – playing against Greece

The trailblazing Dynamos played in the Champions League against teams such as Liverpool. Mr Ford still takes sports photography pictures today 

Kyiv – Moments in Time captures a fascinating glimpse into life in Ukraine in the 1990s. Here, three women are pictured holding flowers from a market

A calendar dated from 1986 acts as a symbolic snapshot for life in that year – already a glimpse into the past when taken in the 90s

A market-stall worker displays a range of fresh cuts, as customers browse rows of fruit and vegetables behind him

One woman stares wistfully out of the window onboard public transport as she passes through Kyiv

Ukrainians of all ages brace the cold as they take to a freshwater swim in freezing water (-10 or -15C) for the New Years’ swim

A smiling little girl wearing a Ukrainian national costume is carried by grinning soldiers as they neatly line up for a May Day parade. Peter said: ‘Getting this was just a right place, right time sort of thing!’

Modern and old: The Ukrainian minister of defence and veterans wearing their medals celebrate the end of the Second World War in 1999

Elena Gorbach (pictured) now runs a ballet studio in Germany. Here she rehearses for a grand performance on stage 

Peter was allowed in to photograph Elena in one of her performances (left), where she danced alongside a man dressed as the devil

Babynya, a memorial to 3,000 Jews that were slaughtered by the Germans in the Second World War. Early on in the conflict it was damaged by the Russians

Hydro Park on the banks of the River Dnipro is filled with donated parts of locomotive engines built into a weight-training gym, where people would often spend an afternoon. Peter has heard that the gym is still there today 

St Andrew’s Church in Kyiv sits on the hilltop among glistening snow as everyone dresses up warm, wearing hats and carrying sledges (left), right is St Cyril’s Monastery and the Motherland Monument

A Ukraine vs England parasport football match sees players take to the pitch with crutches 

Another section of Moments in Time is dedicated to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near the city of Pripyat. Peter visited in April 1999 on the 13th anniversary of the disaster when he was invited down to the plant for the day and told he could go anywhere on the site

Helicopters at Chernobyl in a graveyard – Peter said this is not an area open to the public but he was allowed full access

Peter Ford (pictured) captured hundreds of timeless photographs while living in Kyiv from 1996 to 1999

A time of romance and laughter: Ford captured the candid moment a young couple kissed on the side of the road, and an older couple with their arms around each other

A fisherman on the banks of the Dnipro shows off his catch. Fishing was a great hobby in Kyiv due to the river running through the city

The Cathedral of Saint Alexander of Kyiv (pictured here on a sunny day) is the building associated with the Catholic church in the city

A woman and her dog pose outside the Elizabethan baroque Mariinskyi Palace, which is situated on the right bank of the Dnipro river

Fun and fashion! Models take to a catwalk as the press gathers close to get the best snaps possible of the stylish outfits

Ukrainian determination and bravery can be glimpsed in the 90s, as a man finishes a long race without his shoes in order to make it to the end

Mr Ford captures all five senses in his book: Sights of smiles, the smells of fresh produce, and here the sound of music. He said it was unusual to go to Kyiv without hearing music

Riot police next to a gentleman on a cycle on a national day. The man got lost during a race and the riot police had to let him through as young women laughed in the background 

The stillness of a morning is captured in this photo of several wooden windmills in a field in Ukraine

Irena, who still lives in Kyiv, speaks on a green phone as she wears golden gloves with her ballgown

An elegant ballet dancer in a black dress with gold detailing holds the hand of a lady wearing an exquisite ball gown

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