By Xhabir Deralla
In the face of relentless air raid alerts and the constant threat of Russian missiles, drones, and shells, the people of Kyiv exhibit an extraordinary resilience that defies the grim reality they confront daily. For nearly two years, the city has been under the shadow of missile terror, prompting citizens to seek refuge in metro stations when the alarms sound. However, amidst the chaos and danger, there is an unexpected display of strength, pride, and a commitment to living life to the fullest.
Violeta, a 23-year-old graduate student at Taras Shevchenko University, embodies an extraordinary resilience. When the piercing wail of the air raid alarm disrupts the tranquility, she, alongside many others, exhibits a response that might appear paradoxical to a foreign observer. “When the air raid alarm goes off, we dress up in our best clothes, put on lipstick, do our hair, and go into hiding,” she shares with a composed demeanor. This seemingly nonchalant approach to life-threatening situations may perplex outsiders, yet for her and countless fellow citizens, it symbolizes a deliberate choice to confront fear with a semblance of normalcy—an unwavering stance that transcends fear, opting instead to embrace life in the face of adversity.
The people of Kyiv, facing the constant specter of total destruction, suffering, and death, choose not to succumb to fear and panic. Whether labeled as courage or fatalism, what emerges is a collective strength that defines them as strong and proud individuals. In the midst of adversity, these citizens remain devoted to life, beauty, culture, and art.
While air raid warnings may be overlooked by some, Kyiv’s advantage lies in its resilient army, successfully intercepting and neutralizing the majority of incoming threats. Beyond the military front, the civilian population contributes to this collective resilience, refusing to let the perpetual threat dictate their lives.
In the limited time spent during two visits to Kyiv, the author observed the city’s vibrant life. The city’s theaters and opera houses continue to flourish with a rich repertoire, attracting audiences undeterred by the surrounding turmoil. Numerous flower shops dot the streets, and flowers are sold in supermarkets and smaller shops, adding a touch of color and vibrancy to the urban landscape. Even in the face of adversity, Kyiv boasts wonderful restaurants and cafes reminiscent of Europe’s most beautiful cities.
Remarkably, despite the challenges, the citizens take pride in maintaining the cleanliness of their city. The absence of litter on the streets, even in heavy snow, reflects a commitment to normalcy amidst abnormal circumstances.
The courage and sacrifice of Ukrainian defenders are well-documented, but the everyday courage of civilians is equally striking. Their boundless stoicism, infectious smiles, and calm acceptance of the aggressor’s brutality paint a vivid portrait of a city refusing to be defined by the challenges it faces. In Kyiv, life goes on, and its people are determined to face each day with resilience, strength, and an unwavering love for life.