Kyiv before the War
March 8, 2022
My first views of Kyiv were this week on the news. Apartment blocks stare back though empty window panes, billows of dense black smoke blot out everything. Can you see past the shattered concrete and twisted metal and begin to imagine the grand variety of human beings moving about in the streets and in the parks and buildings--sleeping and dreaming, creating, doing everyday and extraordinary things? Only then can you even glimpse the loss behind the pain in people's faces. Were you, like me, profoundly rattled, shaken, nauseous, gut-punched by this war?
If a beautiful and vibrant city is a reflection the people who inhabit it, then look at these few photos of Kyiv before the war and imagine.
As I write, people are going to toward the center of the Kyiv, gradually being encircled by an
inept but nevertheless destructive army. Today it was announced that Putin has sent for Syrian soldiers, skilled at murdering large urban populations in their home country. Several hundred thousand people were killed there and 12 million people were displaced. Now they are coming for the Ukrainians.
Tonight a Ukrainian reporter said it's not only the people: the animals in their zoo are starving and no one can get to them to feed them. They, like the people, are trapped.
Above, you see playful, brightly colored apartment buildings, while nearby are Soviet-era concrete, identical buildings. What could capture better the contrast between the people still under the government in Russia and the spirit of the Ukrainians?
Clarissa Ward, an international CNN correspondent, was one of the last to leave Afghanistan at the time of the American withdrawal Now she is in the Ukraine and reporting on the attempt of women and children to leave, while their negotiated "safe corridors" are being attacked by the Russians. She paused her reporting live on air to help an elderly woman climb through mangled metal and debris. It was a natural gesture. She rubbed the old woman's shoulder, carried the small bag of the woman's possessions, and spoke to her in Russian reassuringly.
In the only war photo I will show you, Ukrainian soldiers raising their flags at a high point over a city, explosions all around them!
I did hear one bit of humor from a Ukrainian interviewed on the radio, perhaps apocryphal. A woman looked out the upper story window of an apartment building and saw a drone below her window. She grabbed a can of tomatoes and threw it at the drone, which fell to the ground. Then she rushed out and began stamping on it! Ukrainian grandmothers are not to be fooled with!
According to one report, the woman has been interviewed and has corrected the story: it was a jar of pickles, not tomatoes.