The Sukhanov family dreamed of a holiday in Egypt. “We wanted to show the children the pyramids,” says Ivan Sukhanov. “But the war thwarted our plans.” Instead of on the Red Sea, the Sukhanovs now spread out their towels on the sandy beach of the Dnieper River in the heart of the Ukrainian capital.
“This year we are enjoying the surroundings of Kyiv, the lakes, the parks,” says the 41-year-old father. “We relax as best we can.”
Usually the beaches of the Dnieper are crowded in the summer months. Now, despite temperatures of 30 degrees, there is plenty of room for everyone. Life in the capital, Kyiv, is still in slow motion, even though Russian troops withdrew from the suburbs three months ago to focus their offensive on the Donbass region.
Compared to the bombardments and fighting in the east and south of the country, things are relatively quiet in Kyiv at the moment.
But the fear that something worse could happen again dominates everyday life. The sirens still sound regularly, and there is a curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. And the sandbags in front of public buildings and monuments are also a reminder that there is a war on. On June 26, a rocket landed near the center, killing one person.
“We’re getting used to life in war,” says Sukhanov. “In the event of an air raid, we don’t go into the shelters, and we no longer follow the security regulations. We live as well as we can and hope that everything will be fine.”
Vera Sapyga is also trying to enjoy the summer day on the city beach. But the restlessness does not let go of the 37-year-old. “I’m very worried about the sirens and the news. I have to cry every day. I’ve never experienced so much stress,” she says.
Sapyga returned to Kyiv a week ago after fleeing to a village in western Ukraine with her five-year-old daughter on the first day of the invasion. She can hardly wait to leave the capital again.
Sapyga wants to travel to London next week. A family there offered to take in the mother and child. It is the second time she has had to leave her homeland: in 2014 she fled Crimea, where she lived with her husband, when Moscow annexed the peninsula.
She does not yet know how long Sapyga will remain in London. “It’s very difficult to plan anything,” she says. This phrase can be heard all the time in Kyiv these days. Nobody dares to predict how long the war will last. “First, the experts assured us that the war would end quickly,” says Lyudmila Yashchuk, who is sitting with her husband in one of the few open beach cafés.
“Then they said, ‘It will be over by Constitution Day on June 28,’ then by Independence Day on August 24. Now they say nothing more.”