One month after the start of the war in Ukraine, lessons learned
Four weeks of explosions, fires and deaths have devastated Ukrainians and made them stronger. Their “new normal” is to always know where the nearest air-raid shelter is while enjoying a cappuccino at a local cafe or a visit to the hairdresser. It is the sobriety imposed by martial law with the prohibition to sell alcohol. He asks the United States and NATO for a no-fly zone that could significantly damage Russia’s ability to attack from the air – even if the allies refuse, citing fears of starting the world war that Moscow and the West have so long managed to avoid. .
It is the growing belief of the people – and the world – that the Ukrainian military could actually win. He has already prevented Russia’s massive and feared armed forces from the easy victory that Putin seemed to expect.
“The attackers planned three weeks ago to be in the capital, to be here because this is the heart of the country,” Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko told reporters on Wednesday, as the noise now all too familiar artillery fire resounded in the capital. Context.
“Everyone is surprised,” he said.
For weeks, Russian forces have made only marginal gains and even lost ground in parts of the country, revealing a flawed military strategy. The Kremlin’s plan, analysts said, involved a swift decapitation of the government and the installation of a puppet regime, apparently based on Moscow’s view that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was likely to flee in the same way as the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani did so last summer during the Taliban shutdown. on Kabul. The logical first step – shock and awe attacks to knock out Ukraine’s air defences, drones and air force – never happened.
Rather, Zelensky’s defiant, unshaven face in daily kyiv video addresses inspired and rallied ordinary Ukrainians. A month ago, Volodymyr Marusiak was a lawyer. Today, his corporate law firm in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv serves as his headquarters as commander of the Territorial Defense Forces, made up of civilian volunteers. Doctors, construction workers, founders of start-ups – men and women – are now among its fighters.
“A month ago I was busy wearing a suit and tie,” he said, sitting in a dark conference room. “Now I order 140 people.”
Putin, presenting himself as a liberator, underestimated the Ukrainian resistance. Viral videos show farmers in tractors towing abandoned Russian military equipment on country roads. Even in places now under the control of Russian troops, such as the southern port of Kherson, Ukrainians glared at enemy soldiers while chanting pro-Ukrainian slogans during protests.
Moscow’s military missteps last month, echoing its mistakes in Chechnya in December 1994, may foreshadow a similar trajectory: a long, punitive war with massive civilian casualties. Repeated shelling of some cities in eastern and northern Ukraine has displaced millions of people and destroyed thousands of buildings – apartments, shopping centers and hospitals.
But in other cities, Ukrainians have adapted to the daily grind of war. Yaroslav Rudakov, 27, last week reopened his stylish hair salon, Sprut, one of two or three that are now open to customers in the capital. He did it to send a message of defiance to the Russians – and to help Ukraine.
“That’s my mission,” Rudakov said. “It’s not really big, but it helps. The message it sends is that the people here are brave. They know the real story. The Russians want to destroy everything here and show that they are very powerful. … But now we see how it goes.
Three hairdressers work from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and receive six or seven clients a day. Rudakov said all the money he earns goes to a fund to help Ukraine’s armed forces. After each haircut, Rudakov asks customers how much they are willing to pay – full price, 20% less or half the cost. It does not charge seniors. At least half pay full price, he said.
These kinds of contributions have become commonplace. Dodo Socks – a popular designer sock brand – donates all of its profits to the Ukrainian military. CEO Marta Turetska said it has already totaled more than $50,000 this month. She said the company is shifting a third of its production to padded socks for soldiers and the rest to new designs with patriotic slogans, Molotov cocktails or symbols of Ukrainian pride, including the Antonov An-225 Mriya, a Soviet-era cargo plane that was the largest plane in the world until it was destroyed by Russian bombs.
Dodo’s bright, high-ceilinged studio is one of many makeshift shelters for more than 10 million displaced people in Ukraine.
The company’s production plant in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine, now largely occupied by Russian forces, had to close, and the new one on the outskirts of Lviv employs displaced people . But at least half of the employees of the city of Rubizhne, returning to Luhansk, could not escape.
“We don’t even know if they’re alive,” Turetska said. “So what we are doing may be crazy, totally abandoning our business to the war effort. But we are devastated. We want all Ukrainian businesses to do this.
Waiting to hear from loved ones in areas besieged by Russian forces has also become a daily routine. Kirill Lisovoy, 32, takes refuge in Dodo’s workshop with his two dogs and his wife. His family is in Mariupol, the port city in southeastern Ukraine that has been the scene of some of the most brutal bombings this month of war. They have not been able to contact them for three weeks.
“It’s impossible to think about anything else,” Lisovoy said, speaking more freely when his wife left to do the laundry. “And how not to feel guilty – we are safe, we have a kitchen to use, good people to help us. It’s more than a lot, even here in Lviv. And then Mariupol, a destroyed city. Maybe everyone we know there is dead – we just don’t know.
In Kyiv, repeated attacks on civilian infrastructure over the past month have made residents more defiant. On Sunday, shortly after artillery fire hit an apartment building in kyiv, firefighters climbed into the charred remains of the building to search for survivors. Outside, two children were playing on a swing.
Yuriy Gulevich, 45, whose apartment windows shattered early Wednesday morning when a barrage of rockets hit his kyiv neighborhood, said the attack only made him angrier at Russian forces – and more determined that the Ukrainians win. He and his elderly mother took shelter in the hallway and bathroom to avoid injury.
“I’m angry that they are targeting civilians,” he said as he waited in line to report the damage to a policeman. “This war was created by one person and millions of people are now suffering.”
Beside him, in a plastic bag on the ground, were the remains of what the officer said was a rocket from a Grad multiple rocket launcher. Wednesday’s attack marked the first time such a system has been deployed in the capital since the start of the war, several police officers at the scene told The Washington Post.
But in a trendy downtown cafe, Artem Khomych, 28, and Sergii Dietkov, 29, sat opposite each other playing chess. It was one of their favorite pre-war places. Even after a month of brutal fighting, it is still that way now.
“This is my home,” Dietkov said. “I feel safe here.”
Ian Panitov, 19, was born in Russia but moved to Ukraine when he was 5. One recent afternoon, he sat outside the same cafe writing in his diary.
“I’m sure Kyiv won’t be occupied,” he said. “We have a lot of weapons in the city, a lot of Territorial Defence, a lot of army, a lot of people making Molotov cocktails. And everyone is ready to choke the occupiers with their hands if they don’t have of weapons.
The past month has felt like a lifetime – filled with cursing Russians, asking ‘why’ out loud and mourning all that has already been lost in such a short time. The new rhythms of life seem heavy with sadness, responsibility and uncertainty.
Andriy Spirin is only 18 years old, but he is the dzvonar – the bell ringer – of one of the oldest Orthodox churches in Lviv. His duties were simple: ring the century-old church bells on Saturday evenings, Sunday mornings and on holidays. At the request of the Lviv city council, however, each dzvonar must now ring its bells at 6 p.m. every day until the end of the war.
For the new evening ritual, Spirin composed his own three-minute melody, a somber tune which he titled “The Bell of Peace”.
“We ring these bells to call on God,” he said as the winter sun dipped past the skyline of Lviv’s domes and clock towers. “If the West doesn’t close the sky to us, God will. Only he knows how long I’ll ring those bells. He alone knows how long it will take us to be victorious.
Bearak reported from Lviv, Ukraine. O’Grady and Raghavan reported from Kyiv. Dixon reported from Riga, Latvia. Kostiantyn Tatarchuk in Kyiv contributed to this report.