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The people of Ukraine on life during war

Ukrainian servicemen sit in a bus after they were evacuated from the besieged Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant, near a remand prison in Olyonivka, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People's Republic, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (Alexei Alexandrov/AP)
Ukrainian servicemen sit in a bus after they were evacuated from the besieged Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant, near a remand prison in Olyonivka, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People's Republic, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, May 17, 2022. (Alexei Alexandrov/AP)

Today marks three months since Russia invaded Ukraine.

For many Ukrainians, that milestone is sinking in.

“Now there is a certain plateauing, there’s a certain leveling out. On the one hand, you know, the war has entered our everyday reality,” Mariana Budjeryn says. “And on the other hand, you’re battling the instinct to normalize it.”

As the war grinds on, how do Ukrainians see things?

“The life is going back to normalcy. Today, my working day was punctuated with air bombing alerts three or four times, but I actually don’t count,” professor Ivan Gomza says. “I sat with my laptop and I started working on another article.”

Today, On Point: The people of Ukraine on life during war.

Guests

Ivan Gomza, professor of political science at the Kyiv School of Economics. He has been internally displaced in Lviv. He returned to Kyiv just last week.

Olga Buzunova, co-founder of the Ukrainian Witness Project.

Mariana Budjeryn, research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center. Author of the forthcoming Inheriting the Bomb. (@mbudjeryn)

Also Featured

Alevtina Kakhidze, visual artist from Ukraine.

Transcript: A Ukrainian Citizen On Life During War

KIMBERLY ATKINS STOHR: Alevtina Kakhidze is a visual artist who lives in a village … outside of Kyiv. We last heard from her in late March. Back then, Russian forces were so close she could feel the explosions in her bones. Her neighbors had fled, and she was feeding their farm animals for them.

But in recent weeks, she’s been traveling in Europe, presenting her art, giving classes to Ukrainian child refugees, which is now mostly about the war, at art festivals around the continent. Her husband is still back in the village.

ALEVTINA KAKHIDZE: At the moment, in the area where my village is, is no Russians. So it was liberated in the beginning of April. But still we do have spontaneous Russian missiles. … So they could be any day anywhere.

ATKINS STOHR: Now that Russian forces have been pushed back, things are just beginning to get back to normal.

KAKHIDZE: Well, my neighbors are back because the area was liberated. One by one, they are all back. It was really so sweet meeting them, almost crying. And they said that [I] helped them.

… Because I reported that their houses were fine, okay. And for them it was so much important. Otherwise they would be imagining something crazy. And couldn’t sleep, they said. So the animals, I do care. Now the owners do what I did.

ATKINS STOHR: As her neighbors returned, they made a grim discovery. The corpses of dead Russian soldiers left behind by their retreating comrades.

KAKHIDZE: All this crew were actually killed. They were brought to my village, to the center. … It was just stuffed with Russian soldiers. Their personal items and some items belonged them as soldiers.

ATKINS STOHR: And then there were the Ukrainian dead. You remember the images of dead civilians in the nearby towns of Bucha and Irpin face down in the mud, hands tied behind their backs. And Alevtina says they’ve been bringing those dead to a neighboring town where her friend … has been hard at work at the morgue.

KAKHIDZE: He’s actually helping French experts to put those dead people who were tortured or just killed, to change the bags, actually plastic bags, and to remove them. And actually, just one week ago, he was saying they’re still coming and coming and coming. Like each day they have like two or three bodies.

ATKINS STOHR: In her travels in Europe, Alevtina says she’s found people who were extremely supportive. But she’s also occasionally frustrated at people who’d never experienced war, offering her advice about how to manage in a war.

She’s also been frustrated by Europeans who consider themselves pacifists, and who have lectured against war.

KAKHIDZE: I told Austrian and German people who were saying to me about pacifism that it’s luxury because their country are not under attack. This is why they can allow themselves to dream.

Related Reading

Ponars Eurasia: “The Journey from Kyiv to Lviv | Ivan Gomza” — “Leaving my apartment in Kyiv, I deliberately stopped the wall clock at 5 AM. I hope the apartment will stand so that I can come back and set the right time. If not, I hope the wall where it hangs will stand to symbolize when I became an IDP.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.