• Sat. Dec 3rd, 2022

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What an exodus of 11.4 million people looks like

As the fighting nears the conclusion of its sixth week, Russian leaders show no sign of backing down and Ukrainian leaders show no sign of giving up. Over the last month and a half, nearly a quarter of the Ukrainian population has left home, either to seek refuge in less wartorn areas of Ukraine or in bordering countries.

“Russia has attacked more than just our land and our cities. It went on a brutal offensive against our values. Basic human values,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said at his March 16 address to Congress, where he played a graphic video of the destruction in the country to members of the House and Senate.

The United Nations estimates that ultimately the war will affect 18 million people in Ukraine. Of these, 12 million — almost a third of the country’s population — are expected to require humanitarian assistance.

Those who have returned or chosen to stay face a daily onslaught of attacks. Their homes, schools, hospitals and businesses burn. According to a March 30 report by the U.N. refugee agency, over 13 million people are “estimated to be stranded in affected areas or unable to leave due to heightened security risks, destruction of bridges and roads, as well as lack of resources or information on where to find safety and accommodation.”

For those who remain and those who have returned, the day-to-day can be unfathomable.

Liubov Tsybulska, a violinist in Kharkiv, passes the time in a bomb shelter by turning to her music. In the near dark of the shelter, and sometimes with a clothespin to muffle the sound, she plays.