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Ukrainians see a respite from the war on the beaches of Kyiv

#Ukrainians #respite #war #beaches #Kyiv

Ivan Sukhanov and his family used to vacation on the Black Sea. This year the family from Kyiv dreamed of going to Egypt. Then Russian troops marched in.

Now they travel no further than the banks of the Dnipro River in the Ukrainian capital for as normal a vacation as possible under very unusual circumstances.

“We wanted to show the children the pyramids, but the war thwarted our plans,” says the 41-year-old electrical engineer.

“This year we’re enjoying the surroundings of Kyiv, the lakes, the parks… We’re relaxing as much as we can.”

Kyiv has many sandy beaches that are usually crowded in the hot summer months.

But on the first weekend in July, despite temperatures of around 30 degrees Celsius, no one is in a hurry to secure a top spot with a beach towel.

The city is still living in slow motion, although three months ago Russian troops withdrew from the outer northern and northeastern suburbs to focus their offensive on the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.

– ‘Be used to something’ –

Compared to the rain of bombs in Donbass and deadly strikes in the south of the country, Kyiv is now relatively calm.

“We’re getting used to it,” Sukhanov admits, four months after Russian troops invaded his country on February 24.

So when the air raid alarm goes off, “we don’t go into the bunkers, we don’t obey the safety rules… We live as best we can, hoping that everything will be fine”.

But the fear that something worse is to come dominates everyday life. A missile on June 26 killed one person and wounded four others in a neighborhood near central Kyiv that had already been hit twice.

Many also say they are affected by the air raid warnings that still sound regularly.

Add to this the daily 11pm-5am curfew and sandbags protecting statues and official buildings, and it’s hard to forget that you’re living in a country at war.

– ‘Very hard’ –

Vera Sapyga also tries to have fun on a Kyiv beach, but cannot hide her fear.

She returned to the capital a week ago after leaving for a village in western Ukraine with her five-year-old daughter on the first day of the war.

She’s looking forward to going again.

“In terms of morale, it’s really tough,” says the 37-year-old. “I’m really worried about the warning sirens, the news. I cry every day. I have never experienced such stress.”

Sapyga plans to travel again next week with her daughter and head to London to stay with a family who have offered to support Ukrainians.

She has been in exile before, back in 2014 when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula where she and her husband lived at the time.

If she does make it to the British capital, she doesn’t know how long she’ll be staying.

“It’s very difficult to plan anything”.

– rumors –

This is an expression repeated daily in Kyiv, where nobody dares to predict how long the war will last.

“First the experts assured us that the war would end quickly, then they said: ‘It will be over by Constitution Day (June 28), then by Independence Day (August 24), now they say nothing,’ says Liudmila Iashchuk, a 55-year-old sitting with her husband in one of the few open cafes on the beach.

“We hope it will be over by the end of the year, but now everyone is talking about a long conflict,” says Sukhanov.

The uncertainty fuels incessant rumors of a new Russian offensive on Kyiv.

They first reportedly planned to attack on June 22, the anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Then it was said it would happen on Constitution Day, explains Ianna Khlinina, 33, while sunbathing with her husband.

However, neither they nor anyone else in town seem to doubt Ukraine’s ultimate victory over Russia.

Ukraine “already won morally,” says Sukhanov.

“All that’s left is to make it happen on the ground.”

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#Ukrainians #respite #war #beaches #Kyiv

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