KYIV, Ukraine — Serhiy Chornyi, a Ukrainian man working out in an outdoor gym on Venice Beach (the name is given to the stretch of sand that runs through the capital of Ukraine), is trying to tone his summer body. He’s putting on a lot of iron.

His sweat and toil are not meant to impress the summer-blended bikini-clad girls. His contribution to Ukraine’s all hands-on-deck war effort includes working out. The National Guardsman doesn’t plan to leave the country for long and will not be able to travel east to fight Russia’s invasion force.

“I’m here for my health and fitness. The 32-year old said that she wanted to be able “to help my friends with whom i’ll be,” “I feel like my place is now. … Only one option is left: to defend. There is only one way, there is no other choice.

So ends Kyiv’s bitter Summer of 2022. Where the sun shines, but sadness and grim determination rule, where canoodling lovers cannot be certain that their kisses will not be their last, as more soldiers head to fronts; and where flitting birds nest as homeless weep in blown apart ruins. And where peace is deceitful because it lacks peace of mind.

The initial Russian assault on Kyiv was defeated in the first month of the invasion, leaving behind death and destruction. However, the capital was left in the uncomfortable position to be largely bystander in the ongoing war in the east and southern regions, where Russian President Vladimir Putin has redirected military and armed forces.

Even as Western-supplied weapons make more Russian armor to be a smoking scrap on the battlefields, the hulks and wrecks of Russian tanks are being removed from the capital’s outskirts. The cafes and restaurants have reopened, with the chatter and glasses from the outside tables providing some normalcy until everyone returns home for the 11 p.m. – 5 a.m. curfew. This is less restrictive than when Kyiv was at risk of falling.

Andrii Bashtovyi, a friend, sat on a lawn enjoying wine and conversation with his friends this week. He commented that “it looks like there’s not war but people are talking to their friends who have been injured or are being mobilized.” He passed his military medical exam, which means he could soon go into combat.

“If they call, I must go to the recruitment center. “I’ll have twelve hours,” stated the chief editor of The Village online magazine. The Village covers news, life and events in Kyiv, as well as other unoccupied areas.

Although air raid alarms sound still regularly on mobile phones, they are rarely followed up by explosions, unlike those in hard-hit front-line cities and towns. The first cruise missile strikes in Kyiv for five weeks, which destroyed a warehouse and damaged a train repair shop on June 5, were Kyiv’s first. Parents pushing strollers and dog walkers walked unaffected by the fires, even though they were nearby.

Many of the 2,000,000 inhabitants that Vitali Klitschko, Kyiv Mayor, said fled after Russian forces attempted to encircle the city in march are now back. The surreal calm in Kyiv is marred by a sense of guilt as soldiers fall by the hundreds to its east and south.

People are grateful, but they’re asking themselves if they’re doing enough. Snezhana Vialko and her boyfriend Denys Koreiba purchased plump strawberries from one the summer-fruit vendors. They were in the same neighborhood where, just weeks before, jumpy soldiers manned checkpoints with tank traps and sand bags.

They are now much less numerous and vigilant, and they mostly waver through the restored buzz of car traffic without glancing up from their phones.

Many are investing their time, money, and energy in supporting soldiers fighting a war of attrition to take control of the destroyed villages, towns, and cities. The peace is still fragile and precious.

Volodymyr Denysenko, who was trained as a chef but now works as a journalist and brew 100 bottles of spicy sauce using his own hot peppers to liven up the troops’ rations. They were loaded with medical kits, night-vision goggles and drones, as well as crowdfunded gun sights. He also dropped them off at the fronts with volunteers.

He said, “All Ukrainians must support the army, the troops.” It’s our country, it’s our freedom.


Hanna Arhirova contributed to the report.


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