Moment is publishing regular updates from Helen, a Soviet American Jew living in Kyiv. Read all the diary entries here.
Spring is right around the corner and the center of Kyiv is indeed beautiful—well, it used to be beautiful, since these days it looks deserted and feels depressing. Stores are closed, and I hardly see more than one or two pedestrians during the day. But recently, from our balcony, we saw eight, including United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky peacefully strolling along Khreshchatyk Street. Only the presence of six armed security guards reminded onlookers of the unusual circumstances.
The first question I asked my husband was why President Joe Biden didn’t come too. He visited Poland recently and was quite close to Kyiv. As soon as Biden arrived in Europe, Putin started to bomb Western parts of Ukraine as if he wanted to tell Biden “hello.” I understand the security reasons preventing Biden from entering Ukraine, but a visit would have shown tremendous support on the part of the United States. Seeing that Boris Johnson had made that effort regardless of the security reasons revived our questions about a possible Biden visit.
I wish more prominent world leaders would not only visit Ukraine but also become harsher and more decisive in their attempts to stop all the war monstrosities. Ukraine will stand; that’s clear now. But how many more destroyed towns and lost lives does this strong country and its people have to go through to end this war once and for all?
Even for the people like us who stayed in Kyiv, experiencing everyday joys in the absence of loved ones isn’t easy. Our little joys include successful grocery hunting and watching Netflix at night when we are not distressed by the news, which is not often the case. And we are grateful for running water and stable internet (it is less stable when it is raining hard). There are a few cafes open, where people can go to meet friends or hide from the rain or cold. My friends have all left, so there is no reason for me to visit a cafe. And I prefer to stay at home when it rains or it’s cold. But my husband does regularly go to a cafe, regardless of whether he is meeting anyone there—just nostalgia for the times past, I guess.
We used to live and work in a beautiful and booming European city. All of a sudden, life has changed. First fears, then hesitations about the next step, and now just the almost empty city with almost all establishments’ doors closed. And the weather is just as depressing—dark, windy, rainy and cold.