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This painting is on the wall of a small alcove in Lviv, a cafe nestled beside it, some metal tables and chairs outside. I’ve taken pictures of it on all three of my trips, noticing as more pieces of mortar flake off. It’s like a fresco in Pompeii, preserved, but diminishing. There are thousands of women serving in the military, but the trenches are still filled with men. A road and rail nexus between Kyiv and the rest of Europe, the city of Lviv has largely been safe from bombardment, no Russian troops ever nearing it. In March of 2022 the city was filled with posters projecting fierce Ukrainian resistance. By late 2023 they were all gone, replaced with regular product advertisements, the war raging in the East intentionally omitted from public view. But a sense of absence remains, lovers having last moments, artists painting their farewells for a country still saying goodbye, goodbye, goodbye….  

© 2023 Benjamin Busch

There are layers of ideas that happen when a photograph is the subject of a photograph. Sometimes it’s an outside perspective that changes the narrative. This is an ad in the window of a gun shop. It’s obviously intended to project this new historic necessity for women to defend themselves, the Russian army using rape and abduction as part of their conquest. It’s also business taking advantage of nationalism and this very visceral fear. Sound familiar? Few Ukrainians had firearms before the invasion, unlike America where gun ownership is common and mental health has made us all vulnerable to anyone’s violence. Ukraine will soon have millions of traumatized veterans, returning refugees, and civilian survivors of assault. It will also be a nation flooded with guns. Seeing a woman wrapped in their flag, a pistol held in the center, had much to say to me. They framed it, and I reframed it.  © 2023 Benjamin Busch

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