Kyiv, Ukraine – Tens of thousands of Ukrainians have died in Russia’s war in Ukraine, which is entering a second year. Millions have been forced from their homes. And those who have survived are desperate for their pre-war lives to return.
We spoke to four Ukrainians in Kyiv, the capital, on the first anniversary of the conflict.
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‘Difficult to see kids who came to fight die after two or three days’
Oleksander Protsuk, 27, a serviceman, former plumber:
“Everything changed. I was a civilian person, a hard-working guy, single, never served in the army. The war forced me to take up arms, to protect my country, because the former ‘brotherly’ nation attacked us.
“The most difficult part was to see how young kids who came to fight die after two or three days. I serve in the Donetsk region, in the town of Pervomaysk. I am going home, got 10 days off duty, I hope to have some rest and get back there.
“In a year, Ukraine will thrive. It will be an independent country. We will build a huge fence to separate us from Russia, let them live their lives, rot behind the fence.
“And the West will thrive together with us, for we are part of Europe. And Russia should rot, we’ve parted ways with them. They will not be forgiven by my generation, and I hope, the next one. I hope for it.”
‘The war made everything worse in my life’
Tetiana Kravchuk, 44, a sales clerk at a stationery store in central Kyiv:
“The war made everything worse in my life. I earn less. I can’t move around the way I used to.
“In the past, I would visit my mum, who is 67, in [the northern region of] Chernihiv, near Belarus. My son used to take me, but now, he can’t [because men his age are not allowed to leave the region they live in]. I can’t go there by myself because I’ll have to change buses three times.
“I worry a lot. I don’t sleep. I worry about my [two] sons, they may be drafted. I don’t want them to go to war, but if they have to, they will. I am a religious person, and I hope God will spare their lives.”
‘The Poles understand very well’
Snizhana Kapryichuk, architect:
“The first days were scary.
“On the third day, I left for western Ukraine and then for Poland. Many Poles tried to help. The Poles understand very well, understand what we encountered, because they have their own historic experience with Russia and understand how unsafe it is.
“Financially, things got worse, all the businesses are half-suspended. The company I worked for before the war was building several apartment complexes that were damaged by shelling. Understandably, everything stopped.”
‘Prices are up, there’s inflation, the country may go bankrupt’
Kyrylo Borysenko, 23, a serviceman in the Kyiv region:
“I lost many childhood friends. Many people are jobless. Prices are up, there’s inflation, the country may go bankrupt. Many people die, there’s too much blood.
“But as to positive things, people are united, they stand for each other. The boys that are fighting [on the front lines], civilians showed the strength of their spirit. We’re from Ukraine, you can’t break us, because our spirit is strong.
“God willing, the war will be over in a year. I am 100 percent sure the victory will be ours. They lack motivation, they don’t have enough spirit, those Russians. Since 2014, I have been hating Russia. I don’t want a single country on planet Earth to have a neighbour like Russia.”