Everyday Life in Ukraine in the Midst of a War

Foreign Policy Brief #172 | By: Yelena Korshunov | February 28, 2023

Header photo taken from: Photo from ru.euronews.com – Odessa without electricity.




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Refrigerators are disconnected from outlets and turned to closets.

Photo taken from an Odessa resident.

Policy Summary

February 24th 2022 is now the day in world history when Russia started a bloody violent war against Ukraine. For another year Ukrainians have been suffering from Russian missiles, cruelty, and terrorist attacks on energy infrastructure. People are used now to constant power outages. They have learned to adapt to it. Refrigerators are disconnected from outlets and turned to closets with cans, pastas, grains, and dried bread. Balconies are turned into refrigerators.

Policy Analysis

For long months Ukrainians live with electricity turned on only several hours a day if lucky, while many of them stay without power for 2-4 days in a row, especially in the Odessa region in South Ukraine. This condition is especially cruel in winter, when it is freezing outside and very cold in houses and apartments while heating, water supply, and often phones and Internet are off. Many buildings’ residents climb to the top floors every day since elevators don’t work. Older people are forced to stay at home.

Natalia is an Odessa resident. She is 82. She lives in an apartment on the 12th floor. “I can’t take the stairs to go outside. My neighbor, God bless her, buys bread and milk for me,” she says. Natalia has a supply of water in a big cooking pot. The neighbor also carries water bottles from the pump stations for her. “But we are lucky to have gas! Many new buildings are supplied with electrical ovens, so residents can’t even cook or heat water when electricity is off. In these conditions, there is no longer healthy food for many of them. Some are lucky to have a tourist gas burner to cook on”.

Refrigerators are disconnected from outlets and turned to closets.

Photo taken from an Odessa resident.

(click or tap to enlargen)

Ukrainians can buy gas devices and cylinders online and in stores, but there is a high risk of an explosion, which, unfortunately, has become more frequent due to the careless or unconfident operation of these devices. Prices for light supplies jumped up because of the high demand. However, candles, flashlights, lanterns working on batteries, and power banks are a temporary solution when power is off for a long period.


Photo taken from: youtube.com

(click or tap to enlargen)


Photo taken from: rus.delfi.ee

(click or tap to enlargen)

As for the water supply, the only solution for people is to store water in all available containers. Otherwise you will have to look for pump stations, stand in a long line and carry precious water up the stairs home. Probably, you will have to make more than one such trip to provide enough water for the needs of the family.

Tamara works remotely and that became a big challenge with regular blackouts. Her two children attended school before the war, but now they switched to remote learning because of the constant air raid alarms. Students randomly have on-line lessons when electricity is on. The school has a power generator, so teachers are able to provide remote classes, but few students have power generators at home so few students attend. “I always have a desk lamp on and its light wakes me up when we get electricity at night,” Tamara says, “so I am able to do my remote work. My kids ask me to also wake them up to turn on computers and do their homework. Well, at least I’m lucky to still have my job while a lot of people around have lost it because of war.”

Even in this hard condition students do not stop learning. During daylight, at nights, wearing warm clothes, children continue their education. Child care centers for younger kids do  their best to be open for in-person attendance. They use generators and lanterns, and kids have their routine activities wearing an extra pair of pants and a warm sweater. When the air alarm sounds they interrupt learning and play to go down to a safe place if they have one. In fact, many facilities don’t have a secure shelter.

“We have one more big problem because of constant blackouts,” tells Tamara, “and that is financial. Many people are used to not paying by cash any more. We use credit cards and apps on our phones. So power outages have become an obstacle for the simplest pay in a local store. Now you should always have cash in your pocket, but many ATMs are out of cash, so withdrawing bills is also a challenge”.

There is another year when Ukrainians have been fighting for their freedom, their land and lives. Ukrainian children have been waiting for the day when they won’t hear the scary sound of an air raid alert anymore. They dream about the day when they wake up in the morning and go to school, meet their friends, and play sports not interrupted by a blood-freezing howling alarm. They can’t wait for the day when their dads and brothers come back home alive. They are waiting for victory, for light, for peace.

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