After almost two years of conflict, a ceasefire between the Syrian government and rebel forces allowed locals to return to what remained of their homes in 2014. The decimated city of Homs was held by the rebel forces prior to the ceasefire. Yuri Kozyrev and TIME Middle East Bureau Chief Aryn Baker traveled to Syria to document residents salvaging their belongings. Following their time in Homs, Kozyrev and Baker traveled to Damascus , a stronghold of pro-Assad sentiment, where life goes on.

The photos capture one-time residents attempting to pick up what remains of their former lives. Surrounded by a crumbling city, families climb mountains of debris to gather any materials from their homes. While some families could recover furniture and household appliances, other locals could only salvage a bag’s worth of personal belongings. In juxtaposition to the devastation are photos of normal social life in the pro-Assad city of Damascus. While some Syrian’s lost everything because of the conflict, other’s continue to shop and socialize as if nothing has happened.

Photos do a better job of telling the story because words cannot appropriately capture the sensational. To see the completely leveled city of Homs and the expression of despair on the faces of human beings draws a strong emotional reaction. While traveling to Syria is incredibly dangerous, Kozyrev and Baker capture a story that would otherwise go untold.

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