The photo from Mariupol that went around the world

In March 2022, the Russian army bombed a maternity hospital in Mariupol. The images of helpers rescuing a wounded heavily pregnant woman went around the world, but the mother and child did not survive. The photo by Ukrainian AP photographer Evgeniy Maloletka has been named the World Press Photo of the Year. Media discuss the importance and impact of such images.

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Tragedy against an infernal backdrop

De Volkskrant praises the photo’s visual power:

“The buildings reduced to skeletons, the overturned earth, the snapped tree trunks, the smoke and flames in the background create a Dantesque backdrop. The hurried motions of the rescue workers reflect the intensity and urgency of the moment. And the red blanket with the black dots on the stretcher draws the eye to the victim. Her gaze already seems lifeless, with her last strength she protects the baby in her belly with her hand. A moving and, given the circumstances, heartbreaking gesture.”

Arno Haijtema
Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Eyewitnesses in mortal danger

Evgeniy Maloletka did much more than take a dramatic photo in Mariupol, Corriere della Sera stresses:

“He was protecting himself from the Russian bombs, as were all the city’s inhabitants, but he and his two Associated Press colleagues had another reason to be afraid. They knew that Moscow was searching for them with drones and special forces. Moscow knew that if anyone could tell the world what inhuman, unbelievable, scandalous things were happening in Mariupol, it was them. ... They survived along with 350,000 other civilians who were under attack day and night. In Europe. In the 21st century. But these three were the only ones who could tell the world about it and be believed.”

Andrea Nicastro
La Stampa (IT) /

Suppression to the point of denial

La Stampa fears that we humans block out even such powerful images:

“The human brain has a superpower, that of defending itself by all means against the unacceptable, against horror and unbearable pain. Denial of reality is one of its favourite tools. ... Because the completely illogical, brutal and inhuman thought that a hospital where babies are born is a military target was unacceptable. It was as if the world was hypnotised by the horror that was dragging it down into the abyss, and had already begun to refuse to believe that there could be a real mother on that stretcher. Conspiracy theories alternated with optimistic feelings invoking a happy ending for the mother and her baby.”

Monica Perosino