Ukraine War Diaries: Blackouts, bistros and bunkers - the extremes of life in Kyiv

Ukraine War Diaries: Blackouts, bistros and bunkers - the extremes of life in Kyiv

Updated: 18 days, 5 hours, 22 minutes, 55 seconds ago

In March, Ilyas Verdiev said goodbye to his wife and two young sons at the Polish border, before returning to his job as an IT specialist, in a city now growing ever darker.

More times than he can remember, Ilyas - like so many residents - has been laid low in apartment block basements and underground Metro stations while Russian air attacks rain above.

After each raid, life defiantly returned: stand-up comedy shows, dinner with friends, the indulgence of a McDonald's - more often than not, the pendulum has swung from war back to life when the warning sirens stop.

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These days however Kyiv’s resolve is facing a stern examination.

Major power outages and internet blackouts continue to reduce essential services following weeks of missile attacks on critical infrastructure.

Optically at least, the city has dimmed. Now Russia waits for winter to grip.

This week, Kyiv's mayor, Vitali Klitschko, warned the city's residents of the need to prepare for a possible evacuation.

Ilyas Verdiev, Ukraine War Diarist pictured October 10, 2022

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Diarist Ilyas Verdiev pictured in the basement of his Kyiv apartment

"In [the] case of total emergency, which probably will be the complete blackouts, no water supply, nothing, I will be forced to change my location and leave Kyiv," explains Ilyas.

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"But also, I have my mum, my granny here. They will need support. So my plan is to stay safe, to have some food supplies that I preserved already."

Speaking in the latest episode of the Sky News Ukraine War Diaries podcast, Ilyas offers a revealing insight into the commitment to normal life in a city increasingly twisted out of shape by persistent strategic strikes.

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Blackouts in Kyiv as Russia steps up attacks on Ukraine’s energy

3:15

People living in the dark in Kyiv

"Last Sunday, as long as it was quiet, I decided to meet my friend in a distant area, which takes about 40 minutes to go [to]," he explains.

"So we met at the restaurant for a nice dinner.

"After probably two or two-and-a-half hours, all of a sudden the electricity went down, and it became completely dark.

"It was like usual, everybody was eating and finishing their dishes. It's just the music that went down and you could hear the forks hitting the plates.

"There were people with kids… it was a kind of adventure for them. Everybody had candles lightened on their tables and we managed to pay cash because obviously the bank terminals didn't work.

"And when we went outside it was already dark, it was around 6pm. The only lights supply were the front lights of cars. And it's so surreal, you know, that there are blocks all around you, and it was all dark.

"Probably that's what they call a nightmare. I don't know."

Cars drive down a street without electricity in central Kyiv. Electricity saving mode has been introduced throughout Ukraine after Russia's attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure.

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Electricity saving mode has been introduced throughout Ukraine after Russia's attacks on energy infrastructure

Despite the increasing discomfort, more than 1.5 million residents have returned to the capital since the early weeks of the war according to city officials.

Diarist Oksana Koshel left Kyiv for western Europe on the morning of multiple missile strike in October. Now she’s preparing to return once more.

"I am planning to go back to Ukraine shortly," she explains. "Everybody is very surprised about this. People that I meet, they're like: 'Why? Why would you want to go back to Ukraine with all of the blackouts, problems with the electricity, a possible very cold, long winter?'

"But it's my home and this is where I belong. And this is where my heart is."

From the creators of Sky News' award-winning StoryCast, Ukraine War Diaries is a weekly podcast following those living on Europe's new frontline, and those who have escaped it.

Producer: Robert Mulhern

Digital promotion and additional writing: David Chipakupaku

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