Diary from Ukraine: Everyday life in a war-torn country - Part 1
January 19, 2023 News

Diary from Ukraine: Everyday life in a war-torn country - Part 1

How does everyday life look like in war-torn Ukraine? What do people in the west of the country face? How are they affected by the constant power outages? Read the diary of our colleague Kateřina Krejčová, who regularly writes from Mukachevo her observations of life in Ukraine. The first part of her diary is here.

Without electricity

Today we sit in an otherwise crowded office with just the three of us, the assistant Yana and the architect Taras. Project manager Nataliia has fallen ill because the power cuts mean that her home in Uzhhorod does not have heating for most of the day. Our country director Muhammed also fell ill, although there is electricity at his home. We guess this is probably due to the Ukrainian climate, which he is not used to from the Middle East.

Donate to Caritas for Ukraine

Logistics Manager Sasha left for the UN training in Lviv yesterday. Every time one of us goes to Lviv, we get alert and check on them remotely. After all, no missiles have hit Mukachevo since the Russian aggression began, but Lviv, the heart of eastern Galicia and western Ukrainian resistance, is regularly targeted. Russia has terrorized Lviv primarily with attacks on its energy infrastructure, so its residents and some of my friends regularly fill Instagram with portraits of their apartments and the historic city center without electricity in a poetic twilight. When it gets dark, Sasha will share such photo as well. 

There is electricity here in the Mukachevo office, but the building administrator, perfectly bilingual in both Ukrainian and Hungarian, has already come to warn us to save money and heat less. He thankfully doesn't comment the cat on my shoulder, named Meloun (Watermelon) in honor of the liberation of Kherson. There is an unwritten agreement between us and he simply pretends not to see the little kitten who always spends one day a week with us in the office. In the afternoons, there will be Hungarian classes for the public in the building, and the kitten will turn its curious ears towards the busy corridor full of voices I cannot understand. When I teach my Ukrainian colleagues Czech from the Learn Czech Step by Step textbook, he watches us with the same interest. (Note: Meloun, the rescued kitten, has already found a safe home in the Czech Republic, where he was successfully given up for adoption).

Our colleague Katka kitten Meloun

Dining by candlelight

We are thinking where to go for a quick lunch today. Most of the time we decide based on where the electricity is. But even where there isn't, businesses are usually flexible in responding by installing decorative candle holders on tablecloths decorated with Transcarpathian embroidery and lighting a fire in the fireplace, making seating an unusually stylish experience.

Sympathetic waiters in embroidered shirts act as if nothing is wrong, floating between tables without blinking an eye, as if the atmosphere by the fireplace and by candlelight, when the mobile signal and internet disappear and the terminal is not working, is served as a Hutsul specialty. At other times, with a smile and a calm voice, they warn customers that there will be a planned power outage in about half an hour, but they are certainly not to be disturbed. I am delighted by these improvisations, because they show that the morale and creativity of the Ukrainians cannot be undermined by Russian terror.  

How is Caritas Czech Republic helping in Ukraine

In the west of Ukraine, from where Kateřina Krejčová writes her diary, Caritas Czech Republic is helping also thanks to the generous help of donors who have contributed to the Caritas for Ukraine fundraising appeal.

We help displaced Ukrainians in the western part of the country

The Russian invasion has driven millions of people from their homes, many of whom have found safe haven in the west of the country. However, these regions did not have sufficient facilities to accommodate so many people with dignity, and many had to stay in gymnasiums and halls. Caritas Czech Republic built modular houses in the west of the country for Ukrainians who had lost the roof over their heads. At the same time, we renovated mass accommodation facilities to ensure decent living conditions. We provided financial support to people fleeing the war to buy basic necessities.

We are also providing psychological assistance to Ukrainians in the west of the country. In cooperation with the Fire and Rescue Corps of the Czech Republic, we have trained local psychologists in providing psychological care in crisis situations.