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On February 24, 2022, after many rumors and much speculation, Russian president Vladimir Putin launched a full attack on Ukraine. In response to the invasion, the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, called for a general mobilization and declared martial law, meaning that no man aged 18 to 60 was allowed to leave the country; while those living abroad could remain where they were, thousands of young men and women chose to return to defend their homes, their families, their nation.

On February 24, 2022, after many rumors and much speculation, Russian president Vladimir Putin launched a full attack on Ukraine. In response to the invasion, the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, called for a general mobilization and declared martial law, meaning that no man aged 18 to 60 was allowed to leave the country; while those living abroad could remain where they were, thousands of young men and women chose to return to defend their homes, their families, their nation.

The Russian military expected the capital to fall within three days. What followed was a fierce defense of the capital and the country. When Russian forces did enter a town or suburb, they would ransack homes, businesses and stores. Residents wrote on the walls of their homes: “люди” (people) live here, or “діти” (children) to signal the presence of civilians, but this did little to stop the Russians from raiding their homes and taking their belongings and sometimes their lives.

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In early April 2022, after a month of relentless fighting, Ukrainian forces succeeded in liberating the town of Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv. Daniel Berehulak spent weeks documenting the war crimes in Bucha where Russian armed forces, confronted with fierce resistance by Ukrainian soldiers and volunteers, resorted to a campaign of terror and revenge, sometimes even targeting young women who were raped and murdered, in other words executed for the crime of being proud Ukrainians.

Later, when the Russian Army, demoralized and defeated, finally retreated, what was left was a scene of horror and desolation: the streets were strewn with bodies of civilians; others lay dead in backyards, in basements, and living rooms, some with gunshot wounds to the head, some with their hands tied behind their backs; and there were the mental scars of the survivors.

The exhibition chronicles the findings of the Ukrainian fighters and officials after the retreat of the Russian Army. It is a documentary record of weeks of violations of human rights, and also of the resilience of a people fighting for their independence for more than a century.

Daniel Berehulak

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