Overshadowed by the human toll of the war in Ukraine is another tragedy: The loss—potential and, in some cases, already realized—of historic monuments, architecture, artwork, and public squares.
“It almost seems trite to worry about physical structures when there are human lives at stake that can’t be replaced in any way,” says Lucy Maulsby, associate professor of architectural history at Northeastern. “But buildings and places are more than their materials—they’re reminders of shared, collective history and memories. They’re monuments to hopes and dreams, and that is also what people see in their damage or destruction. It’s why the loss of a building or a monument or a significant public space can be so impactful.”
Ukraine is home to a number of important cultural spaces and historic buildings, most of which date back many hundreds of years. The Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kyiv is perhaps the country’s most famous landmark, recognizable by its gold-capped domes. The complex is more than 1,000 years old, and both the Ukrainian Embassy to the Holy See and the Ukrainian Catholic Major Archeparchy of Kyiv-Galicia have appealed to Russia not to bomb it.