By Pepy Ragousi

It was the close-up shots of those murdered in Bucha [the town near Kyiv where Russian troops perpetrated a massacre] that reflected the horror in the most immediate manner, much more than photos of the corpses.

After all, it is always the detail that magnifies drama. It is difficult for one to imagine alive a dead person with whom one is not acquainted.

Human hands, in particular, speak volumes, and trigger associations more easily. One sees them tied behind the back, crushed, or muddied, and one knows that just a few days earlier they were clutching a keychain with the symbol of the EU. They were unlocking the door to their home, or their car, or a familiar place.

They were caressing their loved ones, cooking, ironing clothes, handing out receipts, signing documents, examining patients, hugging husbands or wives and becoming intertwined in their hair at night.

Among these photographs, I saw the hand of a dead woman. It peered out of a blue jacket.

What drew my attention was the finely crafted manicure. They were long nails, possibly artificial, painted in a deep red colour, with one, in line with the latest fashion, done differently, with a black and white design.

I thought of this tragic woman’s last manicure. What was on her mind when she was having it done? When did she expect to have her next one? Was she getting ready for a ceremony, for a celebration that ended before it even began?

It is perhaps the contrast between womanly vanity and death that makes the picture even more tragic.

Later, I saw a photo of the woman, taken presumably from her personal social media account. She appeared relatively young, perhaps not in the first flush of youth, but with a visage that exuded a certain freshness and optimism. She had short, well-coiffed hair, eyebrows stressed with tatouage, and carefully applied makeup. I focused on the hand, however, freshly manicured with all the nails painted in red, save one in black and white.

Then I gazed upon the photograph of death. The polish ends just a few millimetres from the base of the nail, while in the social media shot it touches the base.

It is as if the woman’s entire life was shoved into these few millimetres. From joy to horror. From flesh to red. Not red polish. Red blood.