How Putin’s bombs are changing everyday life in Lviv

LvivUntil recently, Lviv was a place where one felt that war was somehow distant. The initial panic had subsided and when the air raid sirens went off in the morning, many in Ukraine’s cultural capital turned to bed instead of rushing down the stairs to the basement.

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This happened before Russian missiles landed within walking distance of downtown cathedrals and cafes just outside the international airport last Friday. The attack shook nearby buildings and shattered any sense of security some had felt before.

Lviv after missile attack: “Trying to get on with normal life”

Journalist Iván Furlan Cano is traveling to Lviv. Early Friday morning he saw Russian rockets hit the outskirts of the western Ukrainian city.

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The city has become a place of refuge

But unlike many other cities in Ukraine, there were no images from Lviv later of destroyed houses and people fleeing under fire. “It was scary in the morning, but we have to keep going,” says Maria Parkhuts, who works at a restaurant. “People come with next to nothing from where it’s worse.”

The city has become a refuge since the beginning of the war, the last Ukrainian metropolis before the border with Poland. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians pass through them on their way to the neighboring country or remain. Aid and foreign fighters are coming from the opposite direction. It is a city that goes on, at least on the surface.

Military veterans teach civilians how to shoot

Cyclists with backpacks delivering food bounce off the pebbles. Yellow trams wind their way through narrow streets lined with evidence of a history of occupations, from the Cossacks to the Swedes and from the Germans to the Soviets.

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Now the threat of Russian occupation has returned, from whose influence the city has freed itself over the years and developed into a new Lviv. It is a city that does not hold back. “It’s war,” said Maxim Tristan, a 28-year-old soldier, of Friday’s air strike. “It just motivates us to keep fighting.”

On a street corner, young people line up in front of a gun shop, passing around a telescopic sight. You can get anything if you have cash, one of them says. Not far away is a target training facility – with the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the center of the target. Elsewhere in the city, military veterans teach civilians how to shoot.

Men fill sandbags for the barricades

A World War II bunker has reopened in a popular city park, just steps from a playground. Outside an architecture academy, men fill sandbags for barricades. Some churches in the city draped their statues for protection and covered the stained glass windows. Others place their fate in God’s hands.

In the military section of Lviv’s main cemetery, more than a dozen graves are too cool to erect marble crosses. There are bunches of flowers on the ground, the leaves covered with frost. And all over the floor you can see the soles of the boots, which say that mourners have been here recently. Behind the tombs there is an empty space, room for many more rows.

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109 strollers for 109 dead children

Hours after Friday’s attack, activists placed 109 baby carriages in the square in the heart of the city, representing children who have already died in this war. Tattoo artists provide clients with patriotic symbols. A brewery now produces “Molotov cocktails”.

A street poster shows a woman in the Ukrainian national colors yellow and blue ramming the barrel of a gun into the mouth of a kneeling Putin. In the entrance room of a local shop, a resident is working on a drawing of a pigeon.

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Activist: “After you fight, you have to smoke”

And this city is teeming with volunteers. People are opening their homes and local news channels report residents making camouflage nets out of strips of old clothing. “War – it’s not just people fighting,” Volodymyr Pekar says.

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The 40-year-old businessman has launched a special campaign: in the area around the city, yellow and blue billboards will be set up with slogans such as “God save Ukraine” and “Don’t run away, defend”. Pekar, resentful of the profane language that emerged in the early days of the war, wants to offer an alternative.

At the same time, it is raising funds with a crowdfunding campaign for what it sees as the two main needs of Ukrainian soldiers: bulletproof vests and cigarettes. “After fighting, you have to smoke,” he says.

200,000 refugees in Lviv

An estimated 200,000 people from hard-hit parts of the country have fled to Lviv. The locals welcomed them with open arms, but after all they’ve been through, it’s the refugees who seem the most nervous.

The displaced people rummage through the boxes of personal effects at the collection points, checking their cell phones, their presence has transformed the city from a renowned tourist destination to a sanctuary. Instead of promoting local sweets and romantic spots, the official tourism website now offers information on where to find shelter from air raids, among other things.

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Cultural walks for refugees

Under the motto “Heat for the Soul”, residents launched a series of cultural walks for refugees in the city on Friday, visiting the galleries, the medieval quarter and other places of cultural interest.

Just a few days ago, thousands of new arrivals flocked to the city’s main train station at the height of the westbound refugee flow. Now the platforms are sometimes almost empty, waiting for the potential millions who continue to travel around Ukraine in search of a place to rest or a new destination.

The cabinetmaker wants to go back east

There’s the furniture maker from the bombed-out capital of Kiev, who completed air defense training years ago. With a backpack and a mat, he finds himself alone on the platform, wishing to quickly visit his family again in the western Transcarpathian region, then return east and reinforce an army post there.

A little further away, on the stage, there is a young couple, anxious because they are among those who remain in the countryside. The man is 20 years old, he is of fighting age, so he is not allowed to leave Ukraine. “I haven’t traveled much around my country,” says the woman, 21-year-old Diana Tkachenko. “Now I have to do it.”

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Young couple: the arrival in Lviv was chaotic

The journey of the young people began in February in Kiev, on a crowded train and without knowing where to go. The arrival in Lviv was chaotic, the traveling companions freed themselves and screamed, as described by Tkachenko. Some had come from so far east, from Russian-speaking areas, that they could not understand Ukrainian.

It was his first visit to Lviv. “I walked a lot. I tried to enjoy the place. It is really beautiful. You have a much safer feeling,” says the young woman. But there are too many people in the city and nowhere to live, she adds.

So she and her boyfriend decided to return east to Kiev. As her train is about to leave, another one arrives.

RND / AP

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