Ukraine - June 2023. Images from my journey


  Photo: Monika Rogozinska


It had been a year and four months of war in Ukraine, invaded by Russia, when I got off the train in Kiev. I stood in front of the subway ticket machine. I only had banknotes. The ticket machine only accepted coins. Two boys next to me were tapping out tickets for themselves. I asked for help. One of them put his money into the machine and handed me a ticket.
- No - he said when I handed him a more worthwhile bill. He waved his hand, smiled and entered the metro gate
Such was my first encounter of Kiev.
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 Photo: Monika Rogozinska
Kiev, Independence Square-Maydan
Life seemed to be going on normally here. When the alarm began to howl in the streets, people looked at their cell phones. A special government app showed where the missiles or drones Shahed had launched from and where, after what time they can reach. 
Kiev's air defenses were quite tight. The kills were mostly shrapnels from downed missiles.
At night, when I was already traveling by train from Kiev to another city, shrapnel from a downed rocket hit the 24th floor of a building in Kiev. Two people were killed and many were wounded.
After nine hours of travel, the train arrived at its destination - right on schedule.


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 Fot. Monika Rogozińska
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  Photo: Monika Rogozinska


Kiev, The Independence Square - Maydan


Small flags commemorate those who died fighting against the Russians for Ukraine's freedom.
There are more and more Polish flags...
More and more volunteers from other countries are giving their lives in defense of Ukraine.
Looking from here, it is clear that the fight is not only about Ukraine.



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Photo: Monika Rogozinska

Christ shot at crossroads among the deadly minefields near Kiev

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Kiev's surroundings after the Russian army attack on the Ukrainian capital, launched on February 24, 2022.
Yellow school buses took children to this school...
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   Photo: Monika Rogozinska
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This elegant apartment building in Kiev was not ruined by war, but by communism - equally cruel and destructive.


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A memorial wall to the fallen defenders of Ukraine in the Russian-Ukrainian war, that has been going on since 2014.
More and more images of young people appear on the wall.
There are more and more young soldiers horribly mutilated.
Casualties of mines and people in cities destroyed by drones and missiles are increasing.
The number of children kidnapped and deported by the Russians to Russia is increasing.
(The Germans did the same during World War II: they deported Polish children en masse from occupied Polish territories to Germany.)
Russia is waging a war of attrition against the young generation of Ukrainians. 
Russia is waging a war to make people in the world indifferent to this war and to stir up resentment against Ukrainians.
      I will encounter the same propaganda when I return to Poland and immediately afterwards when traveling around the United  
States of America.

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  Photo: Monika Rogozinska
Russian tanks and war equipment destroyed in the battle for Kiev (February-March 2022).
They were placed in front of the Golden Dome Monastery of St. Michael the Archangel in Kiev on Mikhailovsky Square (formerly Militia Square).


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 Fot. Monika Rogozińska
Monastery of St. Michael the Archangel with Golden Domes in Kiev
The first monastery was built in this place in the eleventh century by the grandson of Vladimir I the Great - the ruler of Kievan Rus (Vladimir I the Great was baptized in 988 and introduced Christianity to his country).
      St. Michael the Archangel Monastery has been expanded over the centuries. By order of the Communist authorities of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the 1930s, it was blown up with dynamite.
60 years later, after Ukrainian independence, the church was rebuilt. It is the main church of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
      In 2013 - 2014, during the Euro-Maidan protests (known as the Revolution of Dignity) that erupted after President Viktor Yanukovich refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union, the first hospital for beaten and injured students was organized in this monastery.



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Kyiv Lavra
I heard the lament of Orthodox monks and women. I entered the courtyard of the Kyiv Lavra. They were standing in front of the icon of the Mother of God. I wanted to join in the prayer. Maybe they are praying for peace…
- What are you doing here? Go away! Get out! - reacted several women when they noticed my presence.
I crossed myself and stepped back.
- It's the faithful of the Moscow Orthodox Church who does not want to leave the Lavra - I was informed.
A memory of a scene from a Polish novel came back: people are praying, prayers like birds soar, but they do not reach God, because they peck at each other on the way.


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Dante Alighieri, ”protected” with sandbags from drones and missles, in a Kiev park


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    Photo: Monika Rogozinska
Kamianets-Podilskyi Castle 
"The bastions rocked, a terrible bang shook the air: battlements, towers, walls, horses, cannons, the living and the dead, masses of earth - all this, swept upward by the flame, mixed up, clumped together as if in one terrible charge, flew into the air..." - this is how Henryk Sienkiewicz, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, described the explosion of the towers of the castle in Kamianets-Podilskyi during the siege by Turkish troops in 1672.  The commandant of that fortress was killed then.
       Composed of three novels, "Trilogy" was written by a Polish writer in the 19th century, when Poland did not exist on maps, torn apart and occupied by neighboring empires. It tells the story of several turning points in Polish history, seeming defeats from which victory nevertheless emerged. It was meant to lift the nation's spirit during the partitions of Poland. It made Kamianets-Podilskyi famous. ("Trilogy” was translated into English and published in the US).
      The stone castle on the rocky cliff of the Smotrycz River in Kamianets-Podilskyi was built in the 14th century by Lithuanian princes. From the 15th century it belonged to the Crown of the Polish Kingdom. The fortress, expanded by Polish kings, also with funds from the Popes, was called "The Gate to Poland" and "The Bulwark of Christianity."  For 300 years it defended the borderlands of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, repelling, among other things, Turkish incursions into Europe. It was regarded as unconquered.
      In 1672 the fortress was surrendered, besieged by more than 100.000 Turkish army.
27 years later, under a treaty with the Turks, the fortress was recaptured again by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1793.
(Res Publica Utriusque Nationis - Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was one of the largest states in the 18th century in Europe due to the union of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania - had a king, senate and a parliament).


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     Photo: Monika Rogozinska
In June 2023, the castle and city of Kamianets-Podilskyi had finally been illuminated for two weeks.
Previously, the wartime blackout had continued.
Alarm sirens can be herard from time to time during the day and at night. Residents, school trip groups, tourists, looked at their cell phones or did nott look at them....
The curfew, when you can't go out on the streets, lasted from midnight to 6 am.
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Kamianets-Podilskyi Castle 
First with amusement, and then with incresing surprise and embarrassment, I read the information posted  posted on the boards for visitors to the castle. The Ukrainians put a lot of effort into describing the history of the castle to hide its Polish 300 years history as much as possible. After all, it was a time of major development in the city and ensuring its security.
Why did Ukrainian museum professionals, historians, government officials do this?
Why make comical information stunts?
Isn't it better to tell the truth about our common history?
Or do they not know it?
Without the truth, we will not build mutual trust.


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The stone plaque embedded in the wall of the 15/16 century bridge over the Smotrich River between the castle and the Old Town of Kamianets-Podilskyi. Inscription in Latin on the  plaque:
"Raised from the ruins, Stanislaw August king of Poland, at his own expense, the A.D. 1766" (Anno Domini - in the year of our Lord)


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Khotyn on the Dniester River
Another former border fortress – Khotyn. Its history shows how turbulent the history of the area has been. The fortress belonged to Ruthenian princes, Moldavian princes, the Kingdom of Poland, the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Russian Empire, Romanian rulers, Soviet... Today it belongs to Ukraine.
      The castle is located from Kamianets-Podilskyi about 30 km.
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The cathedral, destroyed by the Turks in 1672, later rebuilt, was eventually demolished on the orders of the communist authorities of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the 1930s.
     The monument commemorating the Armenian Genocide in Turkey (Ottoman Empire) in 1915 was placed on the foundations of the former cathedral.
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     Photo: Monika Rogozinska

Kamenets Podilskyi. Pauline Fathers church of St. Nicholas at Dominikanska Street


The church and convent of the The Dominican Order existed on this site as early as 1370. Over the centuries, the monastery complex burned and was rebuilt. The Turks looted the church in 1672 and turned it into a mosque for more than two decades, and the monastery into barracks. In the next century it was rebuilt and expanded again as a Catholic temple.
      The church was still in existence after the Russian Tsarist authorities had cancelled the monastery (1843) and expelled the Dominicans. The monastery served various public functions, including being a prison.
      The Communist authorities of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics closed the church in the 1930s and turned it into a warehouse. The monument fell into disrepair.
      In 1993, the roof of the church burned down. The ruin was handed over to the Catholic Church and the Pauline Order in 1997.
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 In the main altar of St. Nicholas Church, the Pauline Fathers placed the Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa (Black Madonna)
With tremendous effort, the Pauline Order is raising the church and monastery from ruin. The construction, restoration, reconstruction and research work was assisted by residents of Kamenets Podolsk and the surrounding area, the authorities and institutions of the Republic of Poland, Polish conservationists, scouts, volunteers, pilgrims.
      The work was halted by the covid pandemic in 2020. The death of two local Pauline Fathers during the pandemic was a blow.
      When Russia's invasion of Ukraine began in 2022, a large group of war refugees took refuge in the Pauline monastery.
      The new Delegate of the General of the Pauline Order to Ukraine, who is also the parish priest of St. Nicholas, continues to carry out preservation and restoration work despite the war. In addition, all three Pauline Fathers who live here serve pastorally in three other churches in different localities.
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     Photo: Monika Rogozinska

The alley in front of the church and monastery of the Pauline Fathers is a favorite photo spot for wedding couples, as well as for photographs of... cars for sale. The cars photographed here, they are said to be selling well!



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On the fertile soil of Ukraine, the plants grow large and robust. Also the deadly, scorching Sosnovskiy hogweed.


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   Photo: Monika Rogozinska
Heat. The scorching heat of the sun. I walk along a beaten road among blooming poppies.
      Ukrainian soil is remarkably fertile. The roads are planted with fruit trees, potatoes can be harvested from the fields twice a year. Even on the limestone rocks of Kamianets-Podilskyi, a small layer of land produces abundant crops. In the grass on the hills next to the castle I picked sweet wild strawberries.
      It is hard to imagine the terrible agony of famine in Ukraine of several million people on such fertile land. How great was the Stalinist communist terror that led to the genocide of the Great Famine in the 1930s but also immediately after World War II. This is how farmers resistance to collectivization - the surrender of land and its crops to the state - was broken. This is how those who rebelled against the Soviet Union's enslavement of Ukraine were murdered. Soviet Russia played with grain and food to divide, antagonize and conquer nations.
      Heat. I look around. On the empty road I spot a woman in the distance behind me. When I stop, she speeds up her step. The heat is pouring from the sky. After a while, the woman catches up with me. She extends her hand.  She holds a watch in her hand.
- Did you lose your watch? - She asks. - It looks golden. I thought you might have lost it…



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Photo: Monika Rogozinska



Almighty and merciful God…
…Mercifully hear this prayer which rises to you from the tumult and desperation of a world
in which you are forgotten,
in which your name is not invoked,
 your laws are derided and your presence is ignored.
Because we do not know you, we have no peace… 
                                                                      Thomas Merton
(American writer, journalist, poet, Catholic priest, Trappist monk - Ordo Cisterciensis Strictioris Observantiae)





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I could not write much. I could not show those who do good, save others and from whom I received good. There is a war going on. I can not show their faces without putting them at risk. One day it will be possible. Hopefully soon!


     My farewell to Ukraine still under attack by missiles from three directions: from the north, east and south, from land, sea and planes, from distances safe for the attacking Russians... Time to go back to Poland.