Moment is publishing regular updates from Helen, a Soviet American Jew living in Kyiv. Read all the diary entries here.
Spring has finally arrived in Kyiv.
March was overwhelming, with bombings and the news of Russian soldiers’ atrocities in Bucha, Irpin and Gostomel. Kharkiv, the second biggest city in Ukraine, was largely destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fled the country. Kyiv, the capital, looked deserted. Almost all establishments were closed. Panic was in the air, not spring.
Then April was cold and windy, with some snowy days—anything but spring. On top of that, the central heating system in my apartment was turned off, and it was freezing. I slept in my ski outerwear, minus the helmet.
Only now does it truly feel like spring. And not just because of sunny, relatively warm days. Spring is associated with the birds coming back, but this year (birds aside) many Ukrainians have come back, and more keep coming. At the borders, there are lines of people waiting to enter their motherland. It’s hard to believe that just over a month ago, the lines faced the opposite direction.
When the war began, so many people had escaped Kyiv that it felt abandoned, barely alive. Without its people, the city wasn’t breathing; it was scary, depressing and disturbing. But now, we are facing a completely different situation. I can see lots of folks on the streets, some even in short sleeves. Of course, people have missed the warm weather, but I can tell that they have missed their city much more. They stroll along Khreschatyk, the main street in Kyiv, and they are obviously happy to be home. The war is not over yet—there were bombings in the city center the other day—but people are eager to resume their work and start restoring the capital.
In other good news: My parcel from the United States finally arrived. I prefer to shop online, but because many companies and eBay sellers don’t ship to Ukraine—they didn’t even in prewar times—my daughter, Olga, sends me a parcel twice a year. This year, she sent my stuff in February right before the war broke out. I thought I would never see my treasures, especially considering that there are neither cargo flights nor passenger flights coming to Ukraine, for obvious reasons. And what a miracle, the package was delivered—which means that the postal service is back on track!
I see other businesses also opening their doors. The Nike store around the corner from us was the first I noticed. Restaurants, even without many customers, are functioning. I look forward to my gym resuming its operations. With COVID lockdowns, it had already been closed for months before the war. I only hope they can survive financially; I’d like to return to my exercise routine and start swimming again.
I have a list of activities I’m looking forward to resuming:
- Gym (I try to do exercises at home, but for me going to the gym is not just a healthy activity, it is also a social one)
- Swimming pool (I have one lung and one gill; I need to swim!)
- Manicure and pedicure
- Dining out
- Art exhibitions
- Traveling, not escaping
- Dentist (both my husband and I need one pronto)
- Cleaning lady
And I can go on. I have been missing my life in New York, as well as my Kyiv routine. But while I am missing simple pleasures, it doesn’t stop me from working nonstop on volunteering and on my own projects. I feel ashamed to be in need of those simple things, because the whole country is in distress. Everyone in Ukraine will be damaged by this war.
Ukraine has endured! The war has to end! People don’t want to wait any longer to rebuild their towns, join their families, resume their old jobs or start new ones—and all this while mourning the innocent Ukrainian lives lost.