Picture this – New Year’s Eve in Kyiv’s Saint Sophia Cathedral Square.
A structure of golden bulbs is brilliantly lit, and a guitarist plays George Michael’s Last Christmas as families gather in the square.
At 9pm the festive lights are switched off and all that remains is the twinkling North Star in the bell tower. Two hours before curfew, the crowds begin to thin. The blue lights of police vans bounce off dim Christmas trees and families head home for the night.
The New Year is the most celebrated holiday in Ukraine and although the day was marked by a massive Russian missile attack that set off 10 explosions in the capital, people gathered to enjoy it. are House parties continue until the curfew ends at 6 am and then many young people head to nightclubs and party all day.
The insistence on celebrating is in itself a form of resistance.
“The main idea is that what Russia is doing is instilling terror and fear into us, and they’re not getting it. We’re just going to live our lives, and it may be painful, but it doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter,” Xenia says. Melnik at a house party near Saint Sophia’s Square.
Shortly after midnight, two other explosions rocked the capital. The streets are empty but the festivities continue as people shout at each other from their building blocks and sing the national anthem in defiance.
For many young Ukrainians, life has changed dramatically. Thousands of civilians have left their careers and everyday comforts behind to join the armed forces.
Eugene worked in media and advertising before Russia invaded Ukraine in February. He is now a lieutenant in Ukraine’s armed forces and plans to leave the army and return to his old life when the war is over and – he emphatically highlights – back in Crimea.
“For me, standing aside was completely unthinkable because I did not join the army to protect “the country”, the government or the language. I joined the army to protect my family, my livelihood and our freedom. “Here in Ukraine,” he said.
Hours later on New Year’s Day, families occupied an artillery barrage framed by wrecked Russian tanks and in the shadow of St. Michael’s golden-domed monastery.
Many a New Year’s hangover has been refreshed by a crisp and symbolic wreck, but for most the weariness is emotional.
“I wanted to believe we would at least have a quiet night. But no, our neighbors decided we didn’t deserve it so they sent us some New Year’s gifts and it was disgusting,” Keef said. Olha Kuchek, a resident of three-year-old son.
Ukraine’s fighting spirit captured the world’s imagination in 2022, but the enduring sentiment heading into the new year is a strong desire not to have to fight.
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