In this photograph taken by Lovejoy Award-winner Mstyslav Chernov, Mariana Vishegirskaya stands March 9 outside a maternity hospital damaged by Russian shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine. The Associated Press

WATERVILLE — Colby College for the first time will award its Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award for Courage in Journalism to two photojournalists, whose work captured suffering of Ukrainians in the opening days of Russia’s invasion.

Mstyslav Chernov and Evgeniy Maloletka worked earlier this year with The Associated Press to document atrocities committed by Russian troops occupying Mariupol, a Ukrainian port city. The pair were among the only journalists in Mariupol when the war began in February.

“With no information coming out of a city, no pictures of demolished buildings and dying children, the Russian forces could do whatever they wanted. If not for us, there would be nothing,” Chernov wrote in his AP story, “20 days in Mariupol.”

Mstyslav Chernov Photo courtesy of Colby College

The coverage Chernov and Maloletka provided helped change the narrative on the war in Ukraine, countering early Kremlin claims that civilians were not being targeted by Russian troops. In particular, their images of a bombed maternity hospital in Mariupol made the front page of newspapers across the globe in March.

Both photographers have long histories covering international conflicts and crises, but it was their work in Mariupol that caught the attention of the Lovejoy Award selection committee at Colby.

Martin Kaiser, the committee’s chairman, said Wednesday the pair’s instincts — to run toward danger rather than away from it — is the mark of brave, committed journalists.


“Their work in Mariupol is the definition of courage,” Kaiser said, “and tied so well to the legacy of Elijah Parish Lovejoy.”

Since 1952, Colby has annually recognized journalists who put themselves at personal risk while reporting in the spirit of alumnus and abolitionist Elijah Parish Lovejoy, who published anti-slavery editorials in his newspaper, the St. Louis Observer, until his death in 1837 at the hands of a pro-slavery mob.

Although the selection committee discussed other candidates to honor, it quickly decided to name Chernov and Maloletka as this year’s winners, Kaiser said, explaining that in his many years heading up the committee, he had “never seen us come to a decision so quickly.”

“The photography was just so compelling,” Kaiser said.

Rather than just telling the story of the siege, the photographers showed it.

“They were telling, arguably, the most important story going on in the world at the time,” Kaiser said, “and telling it in a way no one else was.”


Kaiser said he expects to see future award winners with more of a multimedia background.

Evgeniy Maloletka Photo courtesy of Colby College

Chernov and Maloletka are to be honored at a ceremony Friday afternoon at Colby in Waterville, although neither is able to attend.

The presentation of the award will be accompanied by a discussion of Chernov and Maloletka’s coverage with Brian Carovillano and Ron Nixon. Carovillano oversaw the pair’s work at The Associated Press in his former position as vice president of news. Nixon is on the selection committee and serves as AP’s vice president for news.

Kaiser said ceremony organizers are trying to work out a Zoom talk with the winners, though he was not sure the photographers will be able to be patched through.

The ceremony is set for 4 p.m. Friday at Lorimer Chapel on the Colby campus. It is free and open to the public, with no registration required.

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