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Photographing Ukraine's deep scars, 2 years into a war without an end in sight

Bohdan Semenukha and his mother, Viktoria, walk frequently through the Lychakiv cemetery in Lviv, Ukraine, just a few blocks from the new apartment where they moved after fleeing Kharkiv, in the country's northeast, in January 2023.
Claire Harbage
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NPR
Bohdan Semenukha and his mother, Viktoria, walk frequently through the Lychakiv cemetery in Lviv, Ukraine, just a few blocks from the new apartment where they moved after fleeing Kharkiv, in the country's northeast, in January 2023.

The second year of war dragged on through Ukraine slowly and with little mercy. The first year of the war was a story of the resilience of people amid conflict that has turned into one of perseverance as the conflict has stagnated, with no end in sight.

As I've continued to cover the stories of the ongoing war, what comes up more and more are the deep wounds that are leaving equally deep scars across the population both mentally and physically.

Mykhailo Korenovsky's wife, Olha Korenovska, touches a portrait of her husband at his funeral in Dnipro, in eastern Ukraine, on Jan. 17, 2023. He was a beloved boxing coach and among the more than 40 people who were killed in a Russian strike.
Claire Harbage / NPR
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NPR
Mykhailo Korenovsky's wife, Olha Korenovska, touches a portrait of her husband at his funeral in Dnipro, in eastern Ukraine, on Jan. 17, 2023. He was a beloved boxing coach and among the more than 40 people who were killed in a Russian strike.

The long-awaited counteroffensive never produced the results that people hoped for this past year. Russian strikes continue to pound Ukrainian cities, and civilians die regularly. Shifting attitudes in the U.S. have begun to evaporate hope for ongoing support, the unforgiving front lines churn through soldiers, and other urgent conflicts have drawn the media's attention away from Ukraine.

During all this, civilians in Ukraine make impossible choices to do what they can to support their families and simply survive. Even during this war, there are beautiful moments of hope and joy as I've seen babies grow up full of life, love connects people across the country, and life generally continues on.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bohdan Semenukha looks out the car window while his mom, Viktoria, drives him home from his new school in Lviv, in western Ukraine, in January 2023.
Claire Harbage / NPR
/
NPR
Bohdan Semenukha looks out the car window while his mom, Viktoria, drives him home from his new school in Lviv, in western Ukraine, in January 2023.
Crews search the rubble for people who remain missing after a Russian missile attack in Dnipro in January 2023.
Claire Harbage / NPR
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NPR
Crews search the rubble for people who remain missing after a Russian missile attack in Dnipro in January 2023.
Petro Shevchenko (left) stands with his grandaughter, Olena Parkhomenko, as they survey the damage to their apartment building in Dnipro, Ukraine, on Jan. 16, 2023. Shecchenko, who lived alone on the seventh floor, suffered cuts to his face in the attack.
Claire Harbage / NPR
/
NPR
Petro Shevchenko (left) stands with his grandaughter, Olena Parkhomenko, as they survey the damage to their apartment building in Dnipro, Ukraine, on Jan. 16, 2023. Shecchenko, who lived alone on the seventh floor, suffered cuts to his face in the attack.
A group of soldiers monitor the Belarusian border in Ukraine's Volyn oblast in March.
Claire Harbage / NPR
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NPR
A group of soldiers monitor the Belarusian border in Ukraine's Volyn oblast in March.
Ukrainian soldier Michel looks through camouflage netting near his home in Kherson, in southern Ukraine, in March.
Claire Harbage / NPR
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NPR
Ukrainian soldier Michel looks through camouflage netting near his home in Kherson, in southern Ukraine, in March.
Soldiers spend time swimming in the pool during a one-week course of rehab at a center in northeastern Ukraine.
Claire Harbage / NPR
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NPR
Soldiers spend time swimming in the pool during a one-week course of rehab at a center in northeastern Ukraine.
Lyudmilla Nesterova leans on a table in the evacuation train after a group of rescue workers helped her and her husband leave Toretsk.
Claire Harbage / NPR
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NPR
Lyudmilla Nesterova leans on a table in the evacuation train after a group of rescue workers helped her and her husband leave Toretsk.
Firefighters work to contain a fire in one of Kyiv's residential buildings that was hit by a Russian missile strike on Jan. 2.
Claire Harbage / NPR
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NPR
Firefighters work to contain a fire in one of Kyiv's residential buildings that was hit by a Russian missile strike on Jan. 2.
A howitzer is fired at a training area in Ukraine's Volyn oblast in March. Ukraine used this relatively quiet region along its border with Belarus to train troops for the front line.
Claire Harbage / NPR
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NPR
A howitzer is fired at a training area in Ukraine's Volyn oblast in March. Ukraine used this relatively quiet region along its border with Belarus to train troops for the front line.
Rescue worker Eduard Skoryk smokes a cigarette while looking out the window of his apartment in Kramatorsk, in eastern Ukraine, in May.
Claire Harbage / NPR
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NPR
Rescue worker Eduard Skoryk smokes a cigarette while looking out the window of his apartment in Kramatorsk, in eastern Ukraine, in May.
A woman sells eggs in Odesa's Moldovanka neighborhood, the center of the city's Jewish community, in May.
Claire Harbage / NPR
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NPR
A woman sells eggs in Odesa's Moldovanka neighborhood, the center of the city's Jewish community, in May.
Soldiers visit Om-Nom-Nom, a sushi and pizza restaurant in Sloviansk, in eastern Ukraine, in November. Sushi restaurants are popular throughout Ukraine.
Claire Harbage / NPR
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NPR
Soldiers visit Om-Nom-Nom, a sushi and pizza restaurant in Sloviansk, in eastern Ukraine, in November. Sushi restaurants are popular throughout Ukraine.
Patrons at a club in Kharkiv, in northeastern Ukraine, hold sparklers in a darkened room in May. Despite the war, people still find a way to release tension in the battered city's nightclubs.
Claire Harbage / NPR
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NPR
Patrons at a club in Kharkiv, in northeastern Ukraine, hold sparklers in a darkened room in May. Despite the war, people still find a way to release tension in the battered city's nightclubs.
Ukrainians hit the ski slopes at a recreational ski area in Kyiv on Jan. 3.
Claire Harbage / NPR
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NPR
Ukrainians hit the ski slopes at a recreational ski area in Kyiv on Jan. 3.
Inna Yermolovych meets her husband at the train station in Sloviansk, in eastern Ukraine, on Feb. 10, ahead of Valentine's Day. They spent a few days together before he returned to the front lines.
Claire Harbage / NPR
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NPR
Inna Yermolovych meets her husband at the train station in Sloviansk, in eastern Ukraine, on Feb. 10, ahead of Valentine's Day. They spent a few days together before he returned to the front lines.

Claire Harbage