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Russian forces attacked the city of Kharkiv beginning on the first day of the invasion, pounding it with artillery, tanks, missiles, and rockets for seven months. I passed through just a few weeks after the counter-offensive had pushed the Russians almost entirely out of the oblast, the area liberated on September 11th of 2022. The northeast section of the city was in ruins, apartments pocked with bullet impacts, grocery stores hollowed out, roads pitted, trenches cut through parking lots and parks. Nothing was left untouched…except a Coca-Cola ad on a refreshment stand. The small store had been blown open and looted, a deep trenchline running in front of it. It was an otherworldly image within the landscape, an iconic American pleasure. If it wasn’t standing alone in rubble, an island of joy surrounded by expended shell casings, it would have just been another advertisement.  © 2022 Benjamin Busch

I first saw this mural at night in Lviv just before curfew a week after the Russian invasion began. I revisit it during every trip. It runs the length of a narrow alley and I enjoy that it’s painted in such an unlikely location, the ugly urban elements: air conditioners, wires, pipes, and vents, collaged into the image. This section shows a soldier on one side and a family escaping with their luggage on the other. I always notice something new when I look at it. Other sections depict burning industrial areas, white doves, soldiers patrolling a smoking wasteland, and a mother reading to her children in a basement. In its own way, it’s like a sequence of cave paintings, the story of life in war unfolding along a tunnel of space between buildings.

© 2022 Benjamin Busch

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