Kyiv – At the outdoor gym on Venice Beach, the inviting sandy beach on the majestic Dnieper River that flows through the Ukrainian capital, Serhiy Chornyi works on his summer figure by doing a big chunk of up-down-up-down iron.
The aim of his sweat and work is not to impress the girls in their bright summer bikinis. The training is part of his contribution to Ukraine’s war effort with all hands on deck: the National Guardsman expects to be sent east to the battlefields soon and doesn’t want to take his belly with him Fight against the Russian invasion force.
“I’m here to get in shape. To be able to help my friends who I will be with,” said the 32-year-old. “I feel like my place is there now. … Only one thing remains: to defend. There is no other option, only a road.”
So goes Kiev’s bitter summer of 2022, where the sun shines but sadness and grim determination reign, where smooching couples can’t be sure their kisses won’t be their last, while more and more soldiers march to the front lines; where scurrying swallows nest made people homeless weep in shattered ruins, and where peace is treacherous because it is bereft of peace of mind.
To Russia’s first attack on Kyiv was repelled in the opening month of the invasion death and destructionthe capital was in the somewhat uncomfortable position of becoming largely a spectator of the war that continues to rage in the east and south where the Russian president sits Vladimir Putin has redirected his forces and military resources.
The burned-out wrecks of Russian tanks are being hauled away from the capital’s outskirts, while western-supplied weapons are turning more and more Russian armor on the front lines to smoking garbage. Cafes and restaurants have reopened, the chatter and the clinking of glasses from their outside tables providing a semblance of normality – until everyone rushes home for the 11pm-5am curfew, less restrictive than Kyiv used to be seemed to fall.
Sitting in a meadow with friends drinking wine one evening this week, Andrii Bashtovyi remarked that “it seems like there is no war, but people are talking about their friends who are being injured or mobilized.” He recently passed his military medical check, which means he could be thrown into combat soon too.
“If they call me, I have to go to the recruitment center. I have 12 hours,” said the editor-in-chief of The online magazine Village, the covers life, news and events in Kyiv and other unoccupied cities.
Air raid alerts still blare regularly and screech shrill on downloadable phone apps, but they’re so rarely followed by explosions — unlike in pounded frontline towns and cities — that few pay them much heed. Cruise missile strikes that destroyed a warehouse and train repair shop on June 5 were the first in Kyiv in five weeks. Dog walkers and parents pushing strollers strolled nearby unmolested even before the flames were extinguished.
Many, but by no means all, of the 2 million residents who Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko said fled when Russian troops tried to encircle the city in March are now returning. But with soldiers fall in the hundreds to the east and south, the surreal calm of Kiev is laced with nagging guilt.
“People are grateful but ask themselves, ‘Am I doing enough?'” Snezhana Vialko said as she and boyfriend Denys Koreiba bought plump strawberries from one of the summer fruit vendors stationed across the city in neighborhoods where few Checkpoints manned by sandbags and anti-tank obstacles lasted weeks before skittish troops.
Now greatly reduced in numbers and vigilance, they generally wave through the restored hum of car traffic and hardly look up as they while away the time scrolling on phones.
With peace still so fragile and more precious than ever, many are investing their energy, time, money and strength to support the soldiers waging a grueling war of attrition for control of devastated villages and towns.
Volodymyr Denysenko, a chef by training and now a journalist, brewed 100 bottles of hot sauce and used his homegrown hot peppers to liven up the troops’ rations. He dropped them off with volunteers driving in convoys from Kyiv to the front lines laden with crowdfunded visors, night vision goggles, drones, medical kits and other much-needed gear.
“All Ukrainian people must help the army and soldiers,” he said. “It’s our country, our freedom.”
Hanna Arhirova contributed to this report.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.
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https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/06/11/war-guilt-and-last-kisses-a-deceptive-uneasy-calm-for-kyiv/ A deceptive, uneasy calm for Kyiv