Two years ago today, the free world awoke to the horrific news about Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a sovereign nation in the heart of Europe. February 24 marks the second anniversary of a brutal conflict that has reshaped the geopolitical landscape, bringing untold suffering to millions, and dramatically altering the course of international stability.

Milwaukee Independent has reported on Ukraine, related to the Holocaust, since April 2017. Direct coverage of Irpin began on March 15, 2018, when it signed the Sister City agreement with Milwaukee.

Until February 24, 2022, the topic of Ukraine was rarely written about, except in the context of World War II or Judaism. Since that date, technically February 23 in the Central Time Zone, Milwaukee Independent has published just short of 500 articles in two years, with 20% of those features produced on the ground in Irpin or various other parts of Ukraine.

Over those two years, Milwaukee Independent has offered in-depth coverage of Russia’s brutal full-scale invasion, with eyewitness accounts supported by thousands of images documenting Irpin’s occupation and its aftermath.

A Chronicle of Conflict

Milwaukee Independent’s reporters and photojournalists have extensively covered every aspect of the war — from major battles and strategic shifts to human stories of suffering, resilience, and hope. The news articles not only provided readers in Milwaukee and across the state with up-to-date information, but also deepened public understanding about the conflict’s complexity and human cost, all connected back to community interests in Wisconsin.

Irpin’s Liberation: A Focal Point

The liberation of Irpin on March 28, 2022, a key moment in the full-scale invasion, held particular significance for Milwaukee due to the sister-city relationship. Milwaukee Independent dedicated considerable resources to report on Irpin’s occupation, weeks of destruction, eventual freedom, and all aspects of its reconstruction after the invaders were driven in humiliation from the region. Those images and stories from Irpin served to connect Milwaukee residents more closely to the events unfolding thousands of miles away.

The Role of Visual Journalism

The volume of images previously published by Milwaukee Independent underscores the vital role of visual journalism in contemporary media. These photographs do more than complement the written word. They capture the essence of moments, convey emotions, and bring distant events far from Milwaukee into a stark reality for a hometown audience.

Editorial Excellence and Ethical Reporting

Throughout the war, Milwaukee Independent has remained committed to editorial excellence and ethical reporting. Respecting the dignity and privacy of those affected by the conflict, and who sought refuge in Milwaukee, had to be balanced against the need for comprehensive reporting. That earned Milwaukee Independent three journalism awards for its work in 2022 from Irpin.

An Unknown Future With 730 Days and Counting

Two years into this devastating conflict, the future remains uncertain. What is clear, however, is the enduring spirit of the Ukrainian people, and the indelible mark the war has left on their hearts and history books. The people of Irpin have also shown remarkable resilience in the face of adversity, and ingenuity to rebuild what the Russian invaders had stolen. The spirit of unity and determination among the residents of Irpin remains an inspiration for the Milwaukee community.

Unveiling the Unseen: A Unique Photo Gallery

Senior Photojournalist Lee Matz has produced a remarkable photo library of about 50,000 images taken during two assignments for Milwaukee Independent, in May 2022 and June/July 2023. About 6% of those images have been published. As a member of the Associated Press, Milwaukee Independent also has access to an even more immense collection of pictures. This photo essay contains 220 images by 50 photojournalists, not previously published, spanning the past two years of war. This gallery offers a unique visual journey through the conflict, showcasing moments of despair, bravery, and the harsh realities of Russia’s daily brutality. The images, powerful and evocative, provide a more intimate and raw perspective, beyond what the written news coverage can convey.

GRAPHIC PHOTO WARNING: This gallery contains news images from war that some viewers may find disturbing.

Al More (via Shutterstock), Alexander Ishchenko (via Shutterstock), Alexei Alexandrov (AP), Andrew Kravchenko (AP), Andrii Marienko (AP), Andriy Andriyenko (AP), Andriy Dubchak (AP), Anna Ua (via Shutterstock), Anton Yuhimenko (via Shutterstock), Bernat Armangue (AP), Choco Pie (via Shutterstock), Cristopher Rogel Blanquet (via Shutterstock), David Peinado Romero (via Shutterstock), Dmytro Larin (via Shutterstock), Drop of Light (via Shutterstock), E. Kryzhanivskyi (via Shutterstock), Efrem Lukatsky (AP), Emilio Morenatti (AP), Eugene Vishnya (via Shutterstock), Evgeniy Maloletka (AP), Fedbul (via Shutterstock), Felipe Dana (AP), Gennadiy Naumov (via Shutterstock), GodLikeArt (via Shutterstock), H. Kahraman (via Shutterstock), Halinskyi Max (via Shutterstock), Harmony VideoProduction (via Shutterstock), HighStock (via Shutterstock), Home for Heroes (via Shutterstock), Honcharuk Andrii (via Shutterstock), Ivan Vasylyev (via Shutterstock), Kibri Ho (via Shutterstock), Kutsenko Volodymyr (via Shutterstock), Leo Correa (AP), Libkos (AP), Mojahata (via Shutterstock), Moonflies Photo (via Shutterstock), Nick Tsyb (via Shutterstock), Oleksandr Polonskyi (via Shutterstock), Oleksandr Volchanskyi (via Shutterstock), Pavlovska Yevheniia (via Shutterstock), Podyom (via Shutterstock), Presidential Office of Ukraine, Prodocdrone (via Shutterstock), Red Baron (via Shutterstock), Refluence (via Shutterstock), RMS UA (via Shutterstock), Roman Chop (AP), RoStyle (via Shutterstock), Ruslan (via Shutterstock), Sarymsakov Andrey (via Shutterstock), Sergey Zuyev (via Shutterstock), Serhii Mykhalchuk (via Shutterstock), Sidhe (via Shutterstock), Tasha Sinchuk (via Shutterstock), Thibault Camus (AP), Vadim Ghirda (AP), Voyagery (via Shutterstock), and Yevhen Roshchyn (via Shutterstock)