One hundred days since ordinary people in Ukraine enjoyed their last ordinary experiences, before war changed their lives forever.
Of course, they didn’t know they would be their last ordinary experiences. While military action wasn’t completely unexpected – Russia already occupied Crimea and had influence in the eastern Donbas region and worries of escalation had been rumbling for some time – everyone was still thrown by the scale and geographic spread of those first attacks.
The people I have interviewed since 24 February recall the days before the war as a different era. One told me how she wished she had bought the takeaway sushi she had been craving for dinner on her way home from work in Kharkiv the night before the invasion. Had she known that this would be her last chance for a treat in a long time to do so, she wouldn’t have made do with leftovers.
Others spoke of their last days in the office, before war closed businesses and workers in cities across Ukraine swapped their flat whites at their desks for sips of stale water in basement bomb shelters as bombs exploded overhead.
Another woman said she was more prepared. She and her husband had spent the days leading up to the invasion in a state-run war preparation course, learning rudimentary first aid, what to do in an air raid and how to protect their home against enemy fire.
The war has changed since the early days of the invasion – and so have people’s attitudes. While some are still living in unthinkably horrific conditions in cities such as Mariupol, others are now in a position where they can try to move on with their new, post-24 February lives. Many have left Ukraine, yet for those who have stayed, especially in areas which are not currently at the centre of the conflict, like capital, Kyiv, life has taken on a new, wartime rhythm.
Cafes have reopened, cinemas are showing the same new releases that we are seeing here – with caveats that the screening could be (and often is) interrupted by an air raid alert. Some couples are even holding weddings.
The mantra is life is too short. But it is also too short for war.