Ukraine’s announcement that at least 1,300 of its soldiers have been killed so far during Russia’s invasion has been accompanied by an increasingly public acknowledgment of the country’s losses.
Sombre funeral processions have become a daily sight, with photographs showing rows of flag-draped coffins being delivered for their funerals in cities including Lviv – with its historic garrison church of St Peter and St Paul.
While as late as last week Ukrainian military officials were declining to disclose the scale of the country’s casualties, the announcement by the president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, on Saturday of the estimated death toll appeared to have become inevitable, with social media, including from the country’s armed forces, increasingly honoring the fallen.
In the course of the short and brutal conflict, Ukrainian social media has tracked a sombre change in attitudes as the war has progressed.
Where posts once appeared marking how young volunteers had given up careers to go war to defend their country, told in inspiring terms, some now come with a grim coda – how they had gone to fight and fallen in an increasing public meditation on mourning.
Among those in the second category was Ukrainian actor turned soldier Pasha Lee, who was killed in action on March 6 during the Russian shelling of Irpin, a town on the outskirts of Kyiv.
Lee, aged 33, who served in one of Ukraine’s territorial defense units and had worked as an actor, TV host and composer, was mourned on Facebook by fellow Ukrainian actor Anastasiya Kasilova, who worked with Lee on the crime TV show Provincial.
“He was an actor, a TV presenter, my colleague and good friend,” Kasilova posted about Lee. “Never forgive!”
Other death notices have been posted by the Ukrainian armed forces on its Twitter feed, featuring a simple photo with a candle superimposed on it and brief details of who they were and how they died.
Notable among those who have died is Inna Derusova, a field medic who is the first woman to be awarded the Hero of Ukraine title posthumously and who has been widely memorialized.
Derusova was killed during the artillery attack on Okhtyrka on 24 February, the first day of Russia’s invasion, and was credited with saving more than 10 soldiers that day.
The public engagement in Ukraine with its fallen stands in marked contrast to the Kremlin’s limits on how Russian military families are able to bury and mourn the dead from a conflict that it refuses to publicly recognize.
Some families in Russia have said that despite being informed of their sons’ deaths, they have been told that the bodies will not be returned until the war is over.