They Were Married. They Shared a Trench. They Died in It Together.

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What ultimately happened to Taras and Olha, a middle-class husband and wife who shared a trench on the front line, and died in it, represents the hole in Ukrainian society that plunges deeper every day. No part of this country, even quiet places like Kropyvnytskyi, where Taras and Olha were mapping out their futures, has been spared.

The blows absorbed here are like internal injuries. On the surface, Kropyvnytskyi, a city of 230,000 people surrounded by vast wheat fields, looks untouched. There are no boarded-up windows, blown-out buildings or soldiers crouching behind sandbags. “Even the Russians aren’t interested in us,” one woman at a store recently joked.

But everyone here seems to know someone who died. It’s as if a long, thin nerve connects this city, in the center of Ukraine, and so many others like it, to the bloodshed along the inflamed front line.

The city’s military cemetery won’t stop growing. Nearly every day, another coffin is slipped into the cold black soil. Each grave is marked by a mound, a cross, a flag and a framed portrait. The gallery of faces stares back in silence, scores of young men and exactly one young woman cut down in their prime.

While Russia has relied on prisoners and mercenaries to do some of its dirtiest fighting, all ranks of society have been mobilized in Ukraine. Among them are countless urban professionals like Taras and Olha who felt moved to serve, along with famous athletes, award-winning filmmakers, inspiring environmentalists, one of the country’s best pyrotechnics experts, a beloved urban tour guide, singers, dancers, poets, painters, scientists, entrepreneurs and linguists. A year into the war, thousands of them are dead.


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