Different Cultural Devastation

Simon O'CorraJul 10, 2022

Is a nation's culture always a measure of its history? Can modern culture match monuments and artefacts in significance? The destruction of a shopping mall in Kyiv this week points to a different kind of cultural devastation. Bombs rained down on more than a thousand Ukrainians enjoying a day of shopping and socializing after a Ukrainian citizen posted the whereabouts of a Grad Missile launcher on Tik Tok, alerting Russian intelligence to its location near the shopping mall.

Shopping Mall in Kyiv, utterly destroyed by the Russians

Shopping malls are commercial, but they are also modern-day cultural centers. Cinemas, restaurants, and coffee shops provide an antidote to isolation, a chance to engage with fellow humans. Shopping malls offer stimulation and flexibility in a relatively safe environment, especially by comparison with the risk of shelling people face in the streets.

Recently, hypersonic missiles destroyed two hotels and a shopping mall in Odessa. Hotels also are commercial, but they form a vital part of a nation's culture, enabling tourism to flourish. One can speculate that Russia targeted them because their destruction is guaranteed to slow Ukraine's recovery.

Hotels and a shopping mall in Odessa destroyed

Early in the invasion, the Russians bombed and destroyed hospitals, an unforgivable crime against humanity. Obviously, hospitals are of practical benefit, but they also provide emotional support and security. This is especially true for expectant mothers. The destruction of a maternity hospital in Mariupol with patients still inside was particularly evil, leaving hundreds of newborns without needed care.

Bombed Maternity Hospital in Mariupol

A school in Kharkiv was destroyed early in the invasion. This is a terrible kind of cultural devastation aimed at the nation's future citizenry.

A school in Kharkiv completely destroyed

It might not seem obvious that a security service might form part of a nation's culture, but people need such a service when a nation is in crisis, which Ukraine most certainly is right now. It is not just the building that is gone but all the years of information stored there, not to mention the people who gave their lives in the service of Ukraine's security.

Chernigov Security Services Building as it was before it was shelled and destroyed by the Russians, February 2022

Russia's indiscriminate destruction of Ukraine also shows up in the treatment of Ukraine's three largest zoos, in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Mykolaiv. Until recently, Kyiv was spared shelling and missile attacks, and the zoo has become a sanctuary for animals transferred from smaller wildlife sanctuaries. The other two zoos have sustained damage to infrastructure. In Kharkiv, most of the staff has fled.

A lion en-route to Kyiv's Poznan Zoo from a private animal sanctuary

Even if you view zoos as an example of cruelty to animals, their impact on the conservation of species cannot be understated, particularly in a world that is seeing unprecedented global warming and the extinction of previously abundant animal populations. The bombings are causing long term harm to the creatures still housed in Ukraine's zoos and will likely damage the way they interact with their surroundings, including future generations of zoo visitors.

Animal keeper Kirilo Trantin comforts an elephant at the Kiev Zoo in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 1. 2022

Emilio Morenatti, AP Photo

Russia's perverse tactics of annihilation seem to know no bounds, even to the point of targeting amusement parks. The Russian army launched attacks on Maxim Gorky Central Park in Kharkiv last month for no apparent reason other than to decimate Ukraine's normal cultural life, this time involving children.

Maxim Gorky Central Park in Kharkiv

I have spoken of theatres before but not of cinemas. This beautiful and historic movie theatre in Chernihiv was recently razed to the ground. Cinemas form a vital part of any society, providing as they do information, entertainment and inspiration.

A movie theatre in Chernihiv before and after its destruction

It is hard to argue with pleas from Ukraine for the West set up a no-fly zone, now that it is crystal clear that Russia is seeking to bury Ukraine and its culture in a heap of rubble and a rising mass of human bodies akin to that witnessed during World War Two. Such wanton dismantling of a nation is a sure sign of a civilization in a steep and barbarous decline. Drastic action is needed to halt this apocalypse.

Simon O'Corra has been a creative since childhood, working in theatre and film and also as a designer and artist. He now combines all these skills to write monologues, duologues, short and feature films and plays. He also has experience in the following: copywriting, research, mind mapping and brainstorming, script editing and mentoring. Simon is a people's person and is a great networker. He currently has a range of short and feature films in development and plays also awaiting production dates post-Covid.

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