It has been often said that the Ukrainian residents of the nation’s two major cities live in one nation but have dramatically different lives.
For Lviv in the west and Kyiv in the east, the social contrasts are due to a long history of domination by different foreign powers. In the early days of the Russian invasion, the capital city was targeted by rockets in preparation for occupation.
With an enemy in the east and the allied puppet state of Belarus in the north, Ukrainians had one direction to flee – west. Lviv became a gateway for fleeing refugees, and a potential stronghold if Kyiv fell.
But while the eastern territories of Ukraine are occupied by Putin’s forces, in an effort to annex more territory, the doomsday scenario of Kyiv being captured did not happen. The flow of refugees fleeing west had eased, and even though Lviv remains a refugee center many are trying to return home.
The histories of both Kyiv and Lviv are as complicated as they are, at times, tragic. Scholars traditionally believe that Kyiv was founded in 482 AD. In late May 2022, the Mayor of Kyiv, Vitaliy Klitschko, its residents for its 1540 year history.
By contrast, Moscow has no documented references until 1147, and only then as a minor town.
Ukraine itself has a long history of occupation, liberation, division, and unification. Most of the nation fell to the Russian Empire under the reign of Catherine the Great in 1793. By its proximity, Kyiv was pulled toward Russia’s influence.
Lviv was part of Poland until World War II, and part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire before that. It was also considered a closed city during the Soviet period from 1945 to 1991, leaving it isolated from the world.
Yet with a national culture that had different flavors based on regional locations, Putin’s invasion did more to unify the nation into a single identity.
So while there are volumes of history books to learn more about each city, and complexities abound to understand their evolution and current condition, this photo essay has a simply purpose. These images were taken in Kyiv and Lviv in late May 2022, and offer an immersive street level at each after three months of war.
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Series: Reports from Ukraine
- Reports from Ukraine: Traveling from Milwaukee to a country at war just to take a vacation from America
- Images from Ukraine: Latino artist travels to Irpin to paint mural inspired by "Echoes of Guernica"
- Images from Ukraine: Irpin residents welcome reissue of Russian Warship Stamp as latest sign of victory
- Stories from Ukraine: Wandering in the ruins of a shattered life after surviving Russia's invasion
- Images from Ukraine: Similar to the Alamo, martyred cities bought precious time to save a nation
- Stories from Ukraine: Tent camp offers shelter for displaced residents until Irpin can rebuild lost homes
- Images from Ukraine: Graveyards of Russian war machines show the scale of Putin's failure to seize Kyiv
- Images from Ukraine: Following the invasion convoy's 40-mile route and exploring an abandoned base
- Stories from Ukraine: Illegal weapons and proof of Russian War Crimes easily seen along streets of Irpin
- Images from Ukraine: How Irpin’s cemetery processed the staggering massacre of its local citizens
- Stories from Ukraine: Healing remains slow as Borodyanka residents recover from occupation
- Images from Ukraine: The deep scars of war remain visibly etched across the landscape of Borodyanka
- Interview with Oleksandr Markushin: Mayor of Irpin and the hero of a Hero City
- A Meeting of Sister Cities: Former and current Mayors of Irpin ask Milwauke's business community for help
- Stories from Ukraine: Having a shared purpose helped Irpin's leaders protect the city and stop the invaders
- Stories from Ukraine: How Milwaukee helped a bakery feed hungry survivors in Bucha with fresh bread
- Stories from Ukraine: Bucha resident recalls how Russians turned neighborhood into a street of death
- Stories from Ukraine: How a mass grave of executions overshadowed accountability from Bucha’s leadership
- Images from Ukraine: Putin’s attack on Babyn Yar is a painful reminder of the broken vow of “Never Again”
- Images from Ukraine: An unexpected encounter with Jewish history and the bloody legacy of persecution
- Images from Ukraine: Listening to timeless voices of ethnic heritage etched in stone at Lychakiv Cemetery
- Images from Ukraine: The experience of attending a military funeral in Kyiv while children died in Uvalde
- Images from Ukraine: Stepping out of the fog of war to see the beauty of faith in ancient places of worship
- Images from Ukraine: The cities of Kyiv and Lviv were divided by history but remain united in identity
- Stories from Ukraine: Anya Nakonechna shares why the Lviv Opera is a symbol of her nation’s culture
- Images from Ukraine: A folk village where visitors can experience the life of past generations
- Images from Ukraine: Signs of renewal sprout from under Irpin’s rubble as city looks to the future
Milwaukee Independent editorial team for this special series: (UKRAINE) Lee Matz, photojournalist; Oleh Pinta, translator / reporter; Yaroslav Zdyrko, security / videographer; (MILWAUKEE) Halyna Salapata, logistics / translations.
Milwaukee Independent has reported on the situation in Ukraine since it was invaded on February 24. Coverage originally began with reactions and rallies from the local Ukrainian American community, and relationships with Milwaukee’s sister city of Irpin. Through partnerships and good journalism, sources were developed that enabled Milwaukee Independent to publish developments about the unprovoked war in realtime. In late May, a team from Milwaukee Independent spent nearly two weeks on the ground in Ukraine. The award-winning daily news magazine was the first and, at the time, only media organization to send staff into the country since the war began.