For Svet Jacqueline, covering events related to the war in Ukraine comes full-circle, in a way; it brings her directly back to her Eastern European roots.
The 30-year-old was born in Russia and adopted from an orphanage by American Jewish parents when she was a baby. (In fact, a story was written about her in the July 2, 1993 issue of the Baltimore Jewish Times, titled “From Russia With Joy.”)
She was given the full name of Ilana (Svetlana) Jacqueline Goldmeier and raised in Pikesville by her parents, Edward and Jennifer Goldmeier, along with brothers Joshua and Daniel. With her family, she attended Beth El Congregation and became a bat mitzvah in 2005.
She graduated from Carver Center for Arts and Technology and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications, and delved into photojournalism. She said she started looking into her background and was planning a trip to Russia when war broke out in February. She continued with her plans, going to Ukraine instead, and published a book out this month, along with four other women, called “Relentless Courage: Ukraine and the World at War.”
What were your experiences growing up Jewish in the Baltimore suburbs? Your favorite holiday?
My favorite holiday is Yom Kippur. When I was a rebellious kid, I always pushed back against the idea of structure, and Yom Kippur is sort of the apex of discipline when it comes to religious practice. With all that I witness in the world and the extreme environments in which I often work, I take this one day of the year to reflect, hold myself accountable and connect with my community very seriously. I am not as religious as my parents, but being raised by the selfless moral code of Judaism has sculpted me into the person I am today.
Talk about your book and the women who contributed to it. What does it offer readers, and why is it so vital right now?
It is a photographic account of the first 100-plus days of the war in Ukraine in 2022. There are five main contributors: Carol Guzy, Lynsey Addario, Paula Bronstein, Justyna Mielnikiewicz and myself. This book delicately encapsulates the tragedy and resolve of the Ukrainian people through photo essays and single imagery. My essay, “Children on a War’s Playground,” focuses on the experience of kids specifically.
Describe an anecdote or experience while you were in Ukraine. How do you link your Jewish values with your work in international photography?
I took a break after some time in the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine to do a small assignment in Krakow, Poland, with the Jewish Community Center there. I had never been to a concentration camp before, but I had been learning about the Jewish presence in modern-day Poland, and I decided to visit Auschwitz. I grew up learning the details of the Holocaust very intricately. My history and my values are what links me to the communities I document. Witnessing an actual genocide in Ukraine in 2022 and standing on the soil of a history of genocide of the Jewish people affirmed to me why I was there and doing this work. In a way, I have known this kind of war my entire life from afar, and now here I was, witnessing it up close.