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TOPIC: maryinka

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Bucha To Bakhmut, Mariupol To Maryinka: Our Brutal Introduction To Ukraine's 'Hero Cities'

The world has come to know Ukraine’s geography through decisive battles and unspeakable war crimes in places like Mariupol, Bucha and now Bakhmut. We zoom in on what these places mean for the war, in both strategic and symbolic terms.

Before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Bakhmut, an eastern city of just over 70,000, was known across the region for its sparkling wine and salt mines – and around the world, it was barely known at all.

Through cruel coincidences of fate and geography, the names of places like Bakhmut have become iconic as they appear in newspaper headlines, day after day.

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Now, Bakhmut joins the annals of history alongside places like Iwo Jima, Gallipoli or Falluja that appeared on the map in pitched battles. Or like Aleppo — introduced to many around the world as the site of atrocities during the Syrian Civil War, though known to both history and food buffs for its UNESCO-recognized ancient souk and thousands of years of multicultural culinary wonders.

Over the past 15 months, the world has come to know Ukrainian geography, often in the most tragic circumstances. Just a few weeks after Russia's full-scale invasion in Feb. 2022, the Ukrainian government recognized 14 cities, including Kherson, Mariupol, Bucha and Irpin, as “Hero Cities” – a distinction dating back to World War II, when the Soviet Union recognized cities like Kyiv and Stalingrad (present-day Volgograd) for their residents’ bravery and determination in the face of the Nazi invasion.

After more than a year of full-scale war and as Ukraine's long-awaited counterattack nears, we look at some of the places that have become the site of crucial battles in the ongoing conflict, forever seared into posterity:

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Maryinka As Memory: How A City In Ukraine Has Been Blown Out Of Existence

Citizens of the now destroyed Ukrainian city of Maryinka are left struggling to remember what their town used to look like.

As Yulia Semendyaeva looks at a photo of the Ukrainian city of Maryinka, the place where she was born and lived 29 of the 30 years of her life, she cannot recognize a single street.

"The ponds are the only things that are still where I remember them," she says.

As Yulia’s hometown had become unrecognizable, the world, for the first time, was beginning to notice it.

When people began to share photos of the completely destroyed city, where seemingly not one building remained untouched, the Russian military boasted of the "impressive" results of what it calls the "denazification" project in Ukraine.

Today, Maryinka only exists on maps. Its streets still have names. But in reality, it is all only rubble.

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