How has war changed life for everyday Ukrainians?

From employment and university studies, to friendships and news consumption, Ukrainians tell Al Jazeera about their experiences.

Olga Serdyuk is a project director
Olga Serdyuk is a project director and says that the war brought those who experience the same traumas closer together [Tommy Walker/Al Jazeera]

Kyiv, Ukraine – Western cities in Ukraine are slowly getting back to a new normal, but for many residents, the war has caused undoubtable change in their lives.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has surpassed three months, with heavy fighting now concentrated in the east.

The Donbas region, some of which in has been in Moscow’s control since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, is now the focus of President Vladimir Putin’s troops.

While threats remain in cities such as the capital Kyiv, and Odesa from Russia’s long-range weapons, Ukrainians are finding themselves adjusting to the changes enforced upon them because of the war.

Al Jazeera spoke to five Ukrainians about how their everyday life has been altered.

Here is what they had to say:

‘I can’t focus on spreadsheets when missiles are being launched’

Asami Terajima is a journalist and student in Kyiv
Asami Terajima is a journalist and student in Kyiv [Tommy Walker/Al Jazeera]

Asami Terajima, 22, is originally from Japan but holds Ukrainian residency. Living in Kyiv since 2010, the business administration undergraduate also works as a journalist for the Kyiv Independent.

“I have been working 24/7, there is so much news. We feel this responsibility to cover everything. We decided to dedicate everything to our job.

“Because I was so busy during the week to do my work, I tried to do my studies on Saturday and Sunday. But ever since the war started, it’s been really difficult for me psychologically to focus on my university studies because civilians are dying, missiles are being struck and Russia continues to shell cities and towns.

“It’s difficult for me to focus on something completely unrelated. Business administration is so different to what is happening. I can’t focus on spreadsheets and accounting when missiles are being launched.

“I don’t sleep until 6am, so it’s very difficult for me to stick to a routine. The gym is important, physical movement is good for your stress, so it’s sometimes good to have a moment away from the war. But it’s difficult because war is our life right now. I went to get ready for a run a week ago and was on the balcony stretching when a missile struck. I saw the missiles hit and the explosion, and it was a reminder of reality.

“I definitely feel energy-depleted these days. I think it’s the toll war has on you.”

‘You understand who are your people, and who are not your people’

Olga Serdyuk, 37, is a programme director of Olena Pinchuk Foundation, a privately funded charity aimed at controlling the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Kyiv.

“Everything changed in my routine, but mostly in things and people in my life. You have completely different values. In one second, you understand what is necessary and what isn’t necessary. You understand who are your people, and who are not your people. I’ve had tectonic changes in my life.

“The people I thought were close to me before the war, they are literally far away from me, I feel like they are far away from me. But others who suddenly appeared in my life, they became very close because we shared the same traumatic experience.

“For instance, when I was trying to explain to friends outside of Ukraine how I feel when I heard the shelling or the number of blasts near my building, they understood, they felt sympathy, but they couldn’t feel empathy.”

‘Sometimes I mute news alerts’

Misha Koriukalov is a consultant on gender equality and sometimes feels overwhelmed by the news [Tommy Walker/Al Jazeera]

Misha Koriukalov, 36, is a freelance consultant on gender equality, and lives on the outskirts of Kyiv. A husband and father-of-two, Misha has had to take care of relatives during the war, and now reads the news more than ever.

“Our relatives from downtown Kyiv moved to our home, 20km (12.4 miles) to the south of Kyiv. Somehow, we accommodated all of them. I was sleeping on the floor. We were hearing anti-air missiles and seeing them, so it was scary for some. We decided to go to western Ukraine, with some other relatives, who were ready to accommodate us.

“I have got used to reading news several times a day. It’s almost every 15 minutes, every half an hour, updates on the Telegram channels – sometimes I mute them. That has also changed, I’m not sure if it’s stress or not, maybe every Ukrainian is feeling this stress, maybe it’s some anxiety. You feel you should be updated because it could directly affect your life. It’s not about rising prices, it’s not about the Ukrainian army liberating a village, it’s about stuff that affects you directly that you should learn as soon as possible – such as long lines at gas stations.

“Sometimes [I read] Western news, but mostly [I read] Ukrainian [news] because they provide information quicker.”

‘With the war came unemployment’

Nikita Pilat is a dance teacher from Odessa
Nikita Pilat is a dance teacher from Odesa [Tommy Walker/Al Jazeera]

Nikita Pilat, 23, teaches choreography to children in Kyiv, but as the war raged, he relocated to Odesa, the city he was born in.

“With the war came unemployment as I was a choreography teacher in a kindergarten. [But now], working remotely with children three to five years old is not possible, since it is difficult to set up eye contact, and parents were not up to it.

“My coaches left Kyiv, everything froze. I tried to practice on the basketball court, but it was very cold, and my morale was getting more and more depressed with a lack of money, running out of food, and uncertainty. I developed insomnia and could not sleep for a long time, because of this I slept until noon.

“In Odesa, checkpoints have been set up throughout the city. Ukrainians do not like being controlled, this is the most freedom-loving people on the entire globe.

“I plan to return to Kyiv and start teaching and training and only practice with teachers will give results and help you recover.  The war has affected us all. The main thing is that we remain human in this difficult moment, the main thing is to maintain moral principles and remember that together we are a great force.”

‘We don’t have customers, only journalists’

Michelle Kudriavtseva moved home when war broke out in Ukraine.
Michelle Kudriavtseva moved home when war broke out in Ukraine [Tommy Walker/Al Jazeera]

Michelle Kudriavtseva, 55, and her husband moved because of the threat of attacks in Odesa. She usually rents out their properties to tourists in the Black Sea city, but since the war began, her business has plummeted.

“We needed to change my apartment, because I was on the upper floor, it was very dangerous. It was mainly glass, near the sea and very noisy. We decided to go to our hotel. This area was closed, but for us, it’s not so dangerous because we have one floor of the building, it’s low, [we have] a basement. Sometimes, I cannot sleep at all.

“We don’t have customers, only journalists. [But] thanks to them, I can pay my people who are working, my staff – seven people. I need to pay water, lights.

My husband is a sailor and he cannot sail right now. He’s working on his apartment and he’s trying to keep busy. For shopping, we only shop for food that’s all. We sometimes try to go to the beach when we feel it’s possible. Many people, [including] my friends have left Odesa, and Ukraine. We were [a group] of 10 close friends but now we only have two [who are still here].”

Source: Al Jazeera