A tragedy transformed: 40 years after fencing accident, Ukraine war reunites impacted families

Three-time Olympic fencer Matthias Behr, who killed Vladimir Smirnov in an accident at the 1982 world championships, shows his medals in December 1991.

When the bombs started falling in Ukraine in February, a retired Olympic fencer began making calls to a woman in the capital, Kyiv. 

The fencer, Matthias Behr, and the woman, Emma Smirnova, are bound by a tragedy that predated Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by almost 40 years. A black-and-white photo of Behr captures the anguish.