Since 2022, Russia has pounded southern Ukraine, attempting to make it uninhabitable by bombing villages, destroying water supplies, and wreaking havoc on its infrastructure. Amid the chaos, survivors have endured — including thousands of stray animals orphaned by the war. Record-setting powerlifter Anna Kurkurina has rescued and rehomed countless of these injured and unhoused pets, showing just one way how Ukraine’s “volonteri,” a loose network of civilian helpers central to the country’s fight for freedom, has bolstered its battle-worn government.

In this series of intimate photos and videos, photojournalist Maranie Staab presents an inspiring profile of Kurkurina, chronicling the athlete’s daily struggles and triumphs as she attempts to uplift the most vulnerable inhabitants of her city, Mykolaiv. Rescuing pets left to scavenge the rubble of airstrikes, strength-training disabled children, and feeding an ever-growing pack of four-legged houseguests, the three-time world champion muscles through her days demonstrating unwavering strength in the face of seemingly endless war.

Best Use of Photography (Nominee)
Webby Awards