My personal connection with Russia already began, as a child growing up in postwar Germany. In the darkness of our small refugee room, I would listen to my father’s sad and soothing voice as he conjured images of endless winter landscapes; of soldiers battling their way through snowstorms; and of people hiding in stables and barns.
Only later, I began to grasp the darkness behind the stories: that the landscapes were stained with blood, the soldiers dying, and the people hiding were Russians filled with fear... and that my father who had narrowly escaped death at Stalingrad did not tell bedtime stories but simply tried to shed himself of the terrible memories of war.
As a teenager in postwar Germany, and still later as a young photographer, I was so stricken with collective national guilt that I did not allow myself a critical look at the nation that had suffered so much from the deeds of my forefathers. Finally, Gorbachev’s glasnost confronted me with the social and political realities of a country that had been under totalitarian rule for seven decades.
As I portrayed Russia’s transformation from a state controlled to a market economy at manic speed, I gradually discovered that, though Soviet rulers had professed concern for workers and respect for nature, they destroyed both with their environmental recklessness.