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War murals in kyiv remember fallen soldiers in Ukraine

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War murals in kyiv remember fallen soldiers in Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Against the blue and yellow background of the Ukrainian flag, the enormous image of a masked fighter with a white and gray cat in his hands rises over a street from the side of an apartment building in Kiev .

The mural shows volunteer Oleksiy Movchan, 49, who died in a Russian bombing in May 2022 in the Donetsk region in the east of the country, shortly after he and three of his companions rescued 11 civilians and the cat from the rubble.

The image that reproduces a photograph taken moments before Movchan’s death is one of two dozen war-themed murals depicting fallen soldiers, legendary figures and key moments of the bloody war that have appeared on the city’s walls since the start of the Russian invasion almost two years ago.

In another, a fighter jet pilot gives a thumbs-up gesture from a wall in a kyiv neighborhood. It is a reference to a famous photo that circulated in the early days of the war, in which the “Ghost of Kiev” supposedly appeared – a legendary pilot recognized for shooting down multiple Russian planes over the capital in the first hours of the war. The Ukrainian Air Force later acknowledged that it never existed.

The phenomenon of vivid street paintings brightening the gray walls of residential buildings is not new in Ukraine. Before the war, these images represented fairy tales or featured prominent musicians and national figures. Now, they remember the volunteer soldiers and others who have become recognized symbols of heroism and resistance over the past two years.

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Saint Javelin, the image of a religious icon holding a Javelin, an American anti-tank weapon, was a meme created by former Ukrainian-Canadian journalist Christian Borys to raise funds for the war. The image soon went viral and appeared on everything from T-shirts to tote bags, flags and socks. Sales from his website raised more than two million dollars for military aid and equipment.

A legendary Jack Russell terrier named Patron (Cartridge) appears immortalized on a wall in a park in the capital. The 4-year-old animal, famous for helping demining teams in the northern Chernihiv district, became the mascot of the country’s emergency services. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy awarded him the state medal and UNICEF recognized him as the first “Goodwill Ambassador” – a play on the word dog and ambassador.

Each of the enormous images was created by a different artist with permission from the municipal government. Movchen’s mural was commissioned by his wife Olena, the Air Force supported the “Ghost of kyiv” one, and members of the Azov Regiment supported the one showing his comrade Maksym Yalovtsov, a 32-year-old former wrestling champion turned volunteer fighter. who died in September 2022 in an operation behind enemy lines in the Zaporizhia region.

At the bottom of the large mural that stretches across a skyscraper in the neighborhood where Yalovtsov once lived, the text reads: “When your actions speak louder than words, then your fame surpasses the light”.

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