(B2) The Ukrainian capital surrounded a few months ago by the Russian army is regaining its former life. Slowly. During the few days I spent here, between Monday and Thursday, one feels an appetite for returning to normal. Without forgetting.
Grocery stores are provided
The big malls, such as Domus or Komod, are still almost deserted, few shops have reopened. Partly due to staff shortages – many adults have gone to the front – or customers. But the grocery stores are supplied almost normally, the small supermarkets often run by babas (grandmothers) operate normally.
Cars are still quite rare. A pair of large shiny SUVs that are a sign of exterior wealth, few vehicles in circulation. The traffic is rising very slowly. Explanation: petrol is very expensive, ” too expensive “. And the guy looks twice before putting a few liters in his vehicle. We therefore move on foot or by public transport.
Large networks work
All networks work. The city is supplied with water, el. Apparently no cuts. The telecommunications networks work perfectly. Wifi is available almost everywhere. Surely kyiv is a connected city. More than in Brussels or Paris. The habit has taken to paying with his smartphone.
Public transport provides its service almost normally. The frequency is probably a little lower than normal. Free, which was in place a week ago, is over. The inspectors have returned to service and ensure in the metro as in the bus that everyone pays their due. Trains also run more or less normally, although fares are more limited.
Pride of Kiev Metro
In this metro, known for its depth, its escalator that goes underground is dizzying (like those in Budapest or Moscow). However, some stations remain closed for security or other reasons, such as Kreshatyk serving Maidan, Independence Square or Hydropark on the island of Venetsiïskyï.
The deserted Hydropark
This huge amusement park in the middle of the Dnieper remains completely deserted. No one on the beaches. Even less in hotels or campsites. Surprising in this spring season, almost summer, when the temperature exceeds 20 °. But all leisure facilities remain desperately closed until further notice. The island is still closed to all vehicle traffic. Large dams made of earth and concrete blocks are still in place. The only way to get there: on foot or by bike. Visitors are rare.
The pleasure of a drink on the terrace
But the city is filled with its inhabitants. Many bars and restaurants have reopened or are in the process of doing so. With one exception, Mac Donalds is still closed. And the Ukrainians in the city – regain the taste for going to bars, especially young people, for laughing, going hand in hand, hanging out in the streets, having a drink on sunny terraces. More and more every day. At least before the curfew, which remains in force (22.00 in Kiev).
Opera and cinemas reopened
The Kiev Opera resumed its performances on May 21 with a shining Barber from Seville. The cinemas in the capital, art and essays as complexes, also resume their sessions, at least on the weekends. Bars and restaurants have reopened. In a corner, sometimes still pull a few bags of sand. We never know. But they are stacked up in street corners, or in the backs of restaurants. Discreetly we come in the evening to empty them, as a sign that that time has been forgotten.
There are certainly not many tourists, not even in the main tourist sites, even around the famous Zoloti Varota (Golden Gate), a central place, rebuilt on the old ramparts, which marked the separation between the city and its suburbs, and inaugurated in 1982, in Brezhnev’s time. I met a couple of them, apparently Polish.
Military in the city
The soldiers, on the other hand, are numerous to guard the embassies, the ministries, the public places. Kalashnikov slung over his shoulder. For the most part, they are territorial defenses. We recognize them on the yellow fabric bracelet, sometimes peeled with a simple piece of tape. The more serious sites are guarded by a police reinforcement checkpoint, armed with semi-automatic rifles. We also meet many soldiers in the city from the territorial guard, women and men, in these light khaki suits. Even a few foreigners, such as this Czech and this American, met by chance in uniform at a cafe.
The spirit of war
Of course, the dams made of sandbags, concrete blocks and other checkpoints at all the strategic points, near the Dnieper, remain at the entrances to the city. And the last reminder of the reality of war, not so far away, air alarms. The siren rumbles from time to time. At least once or twice a day. So far, so innocent that no one is much more aware of it. The first alarm came as soon as we set foot in Kiev. The taxi driver said without hesitation to me: “Putin alarm”.
An open-air museum for the booty
As for the remains of Russian machines taken on the battlefield, they are sent home to a large square in the city, to make a large open-air museum of the battle, which is still taking place, to the east.
(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde, in Kiev)