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In the center of Kyiv across from Maiden Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), a large sign covers a wall of graffiti. It’s been there a long time despite its placement on the main street and is beginning to wear off. Ads and propaganda are everywhere in this area, The Rock endorsing Under Armour apparel on a tarp draped down the entire side
of a building, Deadpool and Ironman used to sell sandwiches and coffee on a street stand, the flag memorial to fallen soldiers, and this, written in English: “BRING THEM HOME ALIVE. Stop The War Now!” It’s a message for us, Americans, and it slyly appeals to our war protest movements of the 1960s and early 70s. The photograph used is of American soldiers evacuating a casualty during our unpopular war in Vietnam. Across
the street from here, police snipers killed a hundred protestors in 2014 during Euromaiden. So, given all this context, the sign is replete with mixed messages to me
as an American observer. I suppose they want me to stop this war. I pass the message to you.  
© 2023 Benjamin Busch

Photo memorials have appeared in public squares, malls, parks, billboards, government buildings, and churches in every town in Ukraine. They range from war casualties in general, to specific unit losses, to locals killed in apartments by missile strikes. This collection of photographs was in a church and it ran the length of a side aisle by the nave. Over a thousand faces. Unlike the family photos on the graves themselves, these were almost all official portraits taken by the government or military, old and young together, and it unfolded like a yearbook where the entire graduating class was murdered. Men aged 18 to 60 are required to stay in Ukraine and fight if called upon, but some as old as 65 are accepted for service. The average age of Ukrainian soldiers has risen to 44 as the conflict goes on, fathers and grandfathers volunteering to die in place of their sons. As I looked down the line, the pictures blurred, like memory does, the dead already becoming what they are. Gone.  © 2022 Benjamin Busch

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