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Kyiv Lives as if War is Absent, but Smiles Fade Closer to the Front Lines

Ukraine remains divided: while the capital appears to be a sparkling metropolis, just a few hundred kilometers away, soldiers are engaged in a frosty, muddy battle reminiscent of an apocalypse at the front.
People’s mentalities have changed dramatically over the past two years.

"I feel strange when I go from the front to the city," said a doctor with a somber smile, sitting in an underground bunker. "People walk and talk on the street as if there’s no war. I no longer know what to say to them.”

The words of the military doctor, who served near the besieged (and since captured) Avdiivka, speak not only of the trauma and isolation experienced by Ukrainian soldiers but also of a schism in the state of consciousness of Ukrainian society.

Lights During Wartime

One of the most striking signs of the country's dichotomy is the difference between the capital city and the eastern regions. Two years after the start of the war, Kyiv presented a very different picture than what I experienced in the winter and spring of 2022. Back then, the streets were empty, and getting around was difficult due to the numerous checkpoints, with volunteers or professional armed forces scrutinizing our documents, searching for Russian saboteurs. Cars were navigating around tank barriers, and the windows of stores were dark or operating almost clandestinely, behind makeshift wooden coverings.

In contrast, in 2024, Kyiv projects the image of a dazzling global city.
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