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What do you envision when you think of Kiev?

For many in the West, the Ukraine's capital city — plastered on front pages and scrolling across news tickers in recent years — has become synonymous with political turmoil. And there's certainly some truth in that.

But if you've only read gripping headlines, you've missed out on half the story.


"Protectress," by Mata Ruda, depicting a goddess surrounded by sunflowers — the national flower of Ukraine. Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL.

Sprinkled across Kiev's towering structures, powerful displays of beauty have transformed the Ukrainian metropolis.

"Boy With Darts," by Sacha Korban. Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL.

Ever since widespread protests against government corruption sparked change about two years ago, many in Kiev have turned to art.

Mural by artist Okuda. Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL.

Murals have exploded throughout the city, turning the country's political anxieties into expressions of hope and strength.

This mural by artist Nunca blends Brazilian and Ukrainian cultures to create a single subject. Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL.

Both international artists and locals have brightened Kiev's weathered brick homes and businesses into wondrous works.

 The results are nothing short of stunning.

Mural by Alexander Britz. Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL.

The murals began cropping up largely after the Euromaidan protests in February 2014.

Angered by mass corruption and governmental mismanagement, anti-Russia protesters shook the political status quo of Ukraine, which was formerly part of the Soviet Union. Deadly riots and a national call to action culminated in the toppling of then-President Viktor Yanukovych, as well as an overhaul of much of the country's political system.

It was a grueling time for Ukrainians — and that instability has lingered into 2016 — but the unrest also spurred a burst of creative expression that has breathed new artistic life into the streets of Kiev.

Many of the murals are either subtly or overtly political, like Fintan Magee's "The Dreamer."

"The Dreamer" by Fintan Magee. Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL.

The artwork features Ukrainian gymnast Hanna Rizatdinova, who's originally from Crimea — a region that was forcibly (and controversially) annexed by Russia.

"I could not understand why," Rizatdinova said of the annexation. "How can the Cri­mea be Russia? How can our Simferopol school train under a Rus­sian flag? I was outraged."

Others are motivated by pure delight, like Sasha Korban's "Elephant Dream."

"Elephant Dream" by Sasha Korban. Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL.

Because what's more delightful than an elephant carrying colorful balloons?

But every work of art tells a unique story.

"Renaissance" by artists Seth Globepainter and Kislow. Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL.

And each unique story should be heard.

"The Rebuild" by Australian artist Fintan Magee, who said the subject for the piece was a Ukrainian friend, Kateryna. Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL.

"The River Crossing" by Fintan Magee. Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL.

"The Visionary" by Fintan Magee. Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL.

As Kiev exemplifies, art often means so much more than pretty pictures.

The healing effects of creating art are well-documented and profound, with many people who've experienced tough times or traumatic experiences — from U.S. veterans to children of war-torn regions — using the medium to cope and grow.

It makes sense that the collective grief of Kiev has blossomed into artistic beauty.

This kaleidoscopic cormorant, by artist Ernesto Maranje, is easily spotted on the drive from the Kiev airport into the city. Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL.

A portrait of Mykhaylo Hrushevsky — a leading figure in the Ukrainian national revival of the early 20th century — by Kailas-V. Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL.

"Swift" by Alex Maksiov features Ukraine's flag in the bird's eye. Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL.

"The Archangel Michael" by Gaia, which symbolizes the conflict in Crimea and Donbas between Ukraine and Russia. Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL.

If anything's evident in the artwork peppered throughout Kiev, it's the unbelievable strength of a people — even in the darkest of times.

Because even amid unrest and a deep desire for change, it still rings true that home is where the heart is for the people of Ukraine.

This local mural reads "I love Ukraine!" Photo by Amos Chapple/RFE/RL.

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