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Life is slowly returning to the streets of Kyiv

Markian Ostapchuk
April 7, 2022

More and more people and cars can be seen on the streets of Kyiv. Supermarkets shelves are refilling, hairdressers, cafes and restaurants are reopening. We report on the mood in the Ukrainian capital.

Lines of cars in front of roadblocks in Kyiv
The streets of Kyiv are beginning to fill with cars againImage: Oleksandr Savytskyi/DW

Since early April Kyiv seems to have been noticeably recovering. Many people who left the Ukrainian capital when Russian bombing started at the end of February are now slowly returning to their homes — even if the city authorities are warning that the military threat remains.

Nevertheless, there are more people on the streets. Stores, cafes, restaurants and hairdressers have reopened. And even if schools are not opening their classrooms, lessons are starting again. The city authorities say 90% of school children will be taught remotely.

'I wanted to return immediately'

According to a survey carried out by Kyiv's Rasumkov Center for Economic and Political Studies, 79% of Ukrainians who have fled their country want to return. A voluntary organization involved with the evacuation of civilians from Kyiv has told DW that hundreds of people are already arriving back in Kyiv each day.

One of them is 40-year-old Andriy, who got into Kyiv main station on Tuesday after traveling in a packed bus from Rivne. He says that he returned from neighboring Poland via the city in western Ukraine. Andriy tells us that he decided to take his wife and his two children aged four and six to safety on the day that the bombardment began and traveled with them to a Polish farmer that he used to work for.

"Actually, I wanted to return straightaway and go to war, but I had to stay and work to earn my family's keep," the man says.

Two baristas with customers in a cafe in Kyiv
Cafes and restaurants in Kyiv are also beginning to attract more customers Image: Oleksandr Savytskyi/DW

But this very morning the Ukrainian capital was once more shaken by explosions in the northwest of the city. Those returning home, however, are not deterred. "People regularly read the news and they know that there are Ukrainian mine sweepers at work inBucha and other outlying areas of Kyiv. After seeing what the Russians had done there, they wanted to come back immediately.

"Our apartment in Kyiv has remained untouched and for me, the time has come to either take up arms or help with rebuilding," says Andriy. He says his wife is also missing her home town and wants to move back home as soon as possible despite all the difficulties.

More public transport and markets

Andriy is pleased that he does not have to spend any money on a taxi to get home. On Tuesday, the main subway interchanges were fully up and running again. After war broke out, they served as air raid shelters and trains no longer stopped there. According to municipal authorities, 150 buses and more than 30 street cars are also back in operation. Taxis are now charging the same fares as they did before war broke out.

The number of cars on the streets of Kyiv also significantly increased last week and was accompanied by the usual snarl-ups. But now they form at the checkpoints and access roads to bridges over the Dnipro River where the papers of drivers and passengers are scrutinized.   

A currency exchange in Kyiv
At this currency exchange in Kyiv, Russian roubles are not being traded Image: Oleksandr Savytskyi/DW

The empty shelves in Kyiv's supermarkets began to fill again at the end of March already. On the one hand, hoarding has tailed off. And, on the other, normal Ukrainian manufactured goods —from confectionery to fresh meat and dairy products — have begun to reappear alongside the mostly foreign products brought by humanitarian convoys in the first days of the war.

Every day, the authorities announce where small farmer's markets are taking place across the city and where you can buy potatoes, vegetables and other foodstuffs.

For the farmers the journey into the city is often difficult. "You need two hours to get from the left bank to the right bank because of the snarl-ups on the bridges and the many checkpoints. We were just about to set out when air raid sirens began to sound, and, so initially, we had to turn around again," said a farmer who has set up a market stall in the center of Kyiv.

Last week, the number of air raid alarms had begun to decrease before Russian troops pulled out of the Kyiv region. There was also less gunfire from street battles with Russian saboteurs. Only the residents of some of the outlying regions could still hear lots of shooting — not because of fighting, but because Kyiv's local defense forces were practicing in nearby woods.

Warm meals and a cafe with a garden

Many small business people are also getting back to work. Since the start of April, city authorities say more than 760 food stores, 400 restaurants and more than 440 gas stations have opened.

In a central subway station, which was used as an air raid shelter, a canteen kitchen has been set up in what used to be a Thai restaurant. Here, warm meals are prepared for members of the defense forces and people who seek shelter underground when the air raid sirens go off.

"Our record is 510 meals a day! We cook borscht, soup and porridge. Local farmers bring us the ingredients," says the cook Kateryna.

Oleksandra in front of her cafe
Oleksandra, the manager of a Kyiv cafe, says they are serving up to 50 customers a day Image: Oleksandr Savytskyi/DW

A cafe has opened next to the canteen kitchen. Its manager Oleksandra says she gets roasted coffee from suppliers who relocated to western Ukraine when fighting started around Kyiv. "We have up to 50 customers a day who like our own coffee blends and our cosy garden where you can sit with a coffee when it's warm. We feel that people are gradually returning to the capital. More customers are coming. But the competition is also increasing, as more cafes are opening each day," Oleksandra tells us.

Restrictions lifted

Near one of Kyiv's most upscale supermarkets the parking lot is full of cars again and all the tables are full at the restaurant next door. Wealthy Kyiv customers are drinking spirits there again. For a month, the sale of alcohol was banned, following the declaration of martial law. In supermarkets, too, alcohol is available again. The yellow tapes cordoning off the shelves have now been removed.

A woman cutting hair in a hairdressing salon
Ukrainian soldiers can get a haircut without booking an appointmentsImage: Oleksandr Savytskyi/DW

Kyiv's inhabitants are also pleased that hairdressers are open again. Olena, the owner of one salon in the city center says that she does not have any appointments available until the beginning of May. "There is only one other hairdresser working and people haven't been able to get a haircut for an entire month. But soldiers and men who sign up for military service are the only ones who can come without an appointment. They cannot wait," she says.

The article was originally written in Russian.

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