This is a subscriber-exclusive edition of Brooklyn, Everywhere, a newsletter where I ponder the many meanings of gentrification, and what we lose in our relentless pursuit of “the American dream.”

Like many of you, I have been watching the Russian invasion of Ukraine with a mix of horror and awe. Horror because, despite having been at war ourselves for two decades, we have not seen images like this in a long time: bustling urban centers transformed seemingly overnight into war zones, fighting and air strikes targeting civilian centers, bombed-out residential buildings, people huddled together in bunkers. And awe at the courage of the Ukrainian civilians, some of whom have quite literally taken up arms to defend their homeland.

One image in particular struck me: four middle-aged women seated together in a van, bearing guns, in attire I might see at the Prospect Park farmers’ market or outside a Saturday yoga class. On their faces the expression of fear, but also determination. One of the women, a teacher named Julia, is crying. She told The New York Times that she had just picked up a gun for the first time two days ago, and is frightened. But “I just want to live in our country,” she said.

In another interview, we meet a young man—Oleksii Palyhi—who had sought an exemption from compulsory military service but is now a part of an active civilian militia. “I was trying to avoid it,” Palyhi said. But now things are different. “We need to defend our motherland.”

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