How Has the War Changed Ukraine?

How Has the War Changed Ukraine?

What you need to know

Russia's war in Ukraine, began on February 24, 2022, has killed thousands of civilians and displaced millions more. On the anniversary of the war, The News Lens looks back at how it has changed cities and lives across Ukraine.

The explosions in Kyiv on the night of February 24, 2022 marked the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Brutal attacks and siege of cities have sent shockwaves across the world as millions of Ukrainians fled their country.

On Ukraine’s national flag, the blue represents the sky over the vast land, while the yellow stands for the grain growing in the huge wheatfields.

Now Russia’s war has ripped through that land of natural bounty. Over the past one year, how has the war changed Ukraine? Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

“It Was Like a Nightmare”: Mass Murder of Civilians in Bucha

In the early days of the war, Russian troops occupied the town of Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv. When a defeated Russian army finally withdrew, they left behind a grim scene: bodies of dead civilians strewn on the streets. 117 bodies were found in a mass grave behind St. Andrew's Orthodox Church. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy described the killings of unarmed civilians in Bucha as “genocide.”

At least 458 bodies were discovered in Bucha; among the victims, 419 people were killed by weapons, according to the Ukrainian government.

Airstrike on Mariupol Theater

Russian forces targeted the southeastern city of Mariupol with a relentless shelling campaign in the early phase of the war. On March 16, the Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theater, used as an air raid shelter for a thousand civilians during the siege of the city, was struck by a heavy bomb.

600 were believed to have died from the strike, according to the Associated Press. But the actual number of casualties could be considerably higher as data remains unavailable from occupied territories.

Destruction of Mariupol, Worse Than the Siege of Leningrad

In Mariupol, at least 95% of the buildings have been destroyed and 25,000 civilians killed, according to Ukrainian officials. Aerial photos show the scale of damage in the city.

The municipal government has compared the devastation to the Nazi siege of Leningrad.

Mariupol's Besieged Azovstal Steel Plant

Ukrainian fighters stationed at the Azovstal steel plant had endured 82 days of bombardment in Mariupol before the city fell into Russian hands. Ukrainian forces began evacuating from the plant on May 16 and some of the soldiers were transferred to Russia.

The Azovstal soldiers were the last holdout against Russian forces in the city. "Defenders of Mariupol are the heroes of our time," the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces said, adding the garrison had “fulfilled its combat mission.”

Airstrike on Dnipro Residential Building

Russian forces didn’t spare civilian infrastructure in their attacks. When a missile hit a residential building in Dnipro, it killed at least 46 people, including three children.

The Ukrainian Air Force said the weapon that destroyed the building was a Russian Kh-22 missile. “The use of such a missile against a densely populated city is in fact terrorism against the civilian population,” the spokesperson for the air force said.

Photos show two different buildings in Dnipro.

Ukrainian Refugees: “Everyone Is Kind, but the Fact Is, We’re Not Home.”

Since the war began, many Ukrainians fled their homeland. According to recent statistics by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 8 million Ukrainians are unable to return home. The number exceeds that of the refugees of the Syrian civil war, making it the largest refugee crisis of the century.

More than 1.5 million Ukrainians have made a temporary home in Poland. Many have crossed the border in Medyka. Just months ago, the Polish government refused to grant asylum to a group of migrants from Afghanistan in a crisis allegedly orchestrated by the authoritarian leader of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko seeking to destabilize the European Union.

Christmas Celebrations on December 25 in Ukraine

For a long time, Orthodox worshippers in Russia and Ukraine have celebrated Christmas together on January 7, but in 2022, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine allowed its churches to celebrate it on December 25 in a break with Russian traditions.

A Christmas tree is placed as usual in front of the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv. But as Russian attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure prompted power rationing, the lights on the tree were sadly off sometimes.

Wladimir Klitschko, Champion Boxer Turned Soldier

Many Ukrainians have taken up arms since the start of the war, including the boxer Wladimir Klitschko, the brother of Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko. The Klitschko brothers, former heavyweight boxing champions, dominated the sport of boxing for more than a decade, from 2004 to 2015.

Wladimir Klitschko joined the Territorial Defense Forces in early February, before the war broke out, and has been serving until today. He said the “senseless war” in Ukraine “is not going to have any winners but losers.”

Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s Rise From Comedian to Wartime Leader

Prior to the war, Ukrainians had little confidence in their President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Yet since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the approval rating for the comedian turned President has skyrocketed. In a poll by Rating, a Ukrainian research organization, 91% of Ukrainians approved of his performance as the leader of the country and 70% believed Ukraine would win the war. Western media outlets have compared Zelenskiy to Britain's wartime leader Winston Churchill.

Ukrainians Dismantle Statue of Catherine the Great in Odesa

Russian aggressions have accelerated a de-russification across Ukraine, notably in the port city of Odesa. In the city center, a monument of Catherine the Great was vandalized multiple times.

On December 29, the Odesa municipal government decided to take down the statue and replace it with a national flag. Would the flag bring glory back to Ukraine?

When Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine exactly a year ago, he expected a swift victory. But the Ukrainian military has defied expectations, waging a surprisingly strong resistance against a much larger Russian army. The United States and European nations have also continued to provide military aid to Ukraine as the war dragged on.

Ukrainians have shown the world their determination to defend themselves and their hard-earned freedom.