Powerbanks, one-off showers, camping tents in the apartment – Ukrainians are now bracing themselves for an unforgiving winter that could be made worse by constant Russian attacks plunging the country into darkness and leaving them to freeze.

Despite the grim outlook, some are determined to stay.

“I am more comfortable psychologically at home, and because I want to invest my time and efforts into my own country,” said Lada Filatova, a Portuguese translator originally from Poltava.

Filatova traveled abroad after the full-scale invasion began but returned to Ukraine because she found that she was fixated on what was happening at home.

“I felt a bit disconnected from people abroad, and kept thinking about what’s going on in Ukraine every day… Even the Alps despite their beauty.

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Having experienced the blackouts last year, this year Filatova purchased various supplies should Russian attacks cause the energy situation to deteriorate drastically in Ukraine.

“In general terms, I feel pretty much prepared for the winter – I’ve got some candles; I’ve got one-off showers.

“They are showers [...] that work with a [minimum amount of] water – you just pour with a little bit of water on it, and you can have a shower with a special [...] cloth if there’s no tap water,” Filatova explained.

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Lada Filatova pictured with some of her supplies ahead of this winter. Source: Lada Filatova

Filatova also feels prepared should the temperatures dramatically fall.

“Last year I was reading some materials [on] how to prepare for the winter, and there were recommendations that if it gets too cold in your apartment, you can put up a tent and light a candle.

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“If it gets that extreme, I have a tent,” she said

Survival aside, having reliable electricity also remains a priority for her as a remote worker.

“The company in which I work has provided us with Bluettis, an equivalent of Ecoflow (a mobile powerbank commonly used in Ukraine), so now I have this little power station at home in case I need to recharge my devices or to work during power cuts,” she said.

Having stable electricity is also a concern for Viktoriia, an IT worker (who chose not to give her last name in order to avoid complications with her employer).

“I bought a Bluetti generator, which is quite powerful I think [and] can help for a few days in case things go really bad,” Viktoriia said.

Viktoriia works for a Ukrainian startup that has since gone global. She left Ukraine for Spain after a brief transit in Hungary under the company’s arrangement when the war broke out. However, she decided to return to Ukraine as she found life psychologically difficult abroad because of cultural differences despite her ability to speak multiple languages.

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“This has been really tiring psychologically and while in Spain, obviously, it was hard to feel like I belonged,” she said. “I was very, very depressed.”

The upcoming winter is a cause of anxiety for Viktoriia, as she didn’t experience the last winter in Ukraine, and she wonders about her ability to cope with the stress of frequent drone and missile attacks.

“It bothers me that – you know obviously there’s no attacks recently, that means they are accumulating [...] I am anxious.

“I don’t know how much of a stress that is, you know. I don’t know if I can handle it this winter,” she said.

Because of that, Viktoriia said she would try her best to stay but did not rule out the possibility of leaving the country again should things deteriorate.

“Because in that case I won’t be able to work, it just will be really difficult, and because I can leave the country, I might,” she explained.

For Ukrainians, having a support network is part of their backup plans, which is the case for both Filatova and Viktoriia.

Filatova said she would likely rely on friends and family around the country if the need arises – when there’s a total blackout, for example. She’s also made arrangements with her friends to visit each other for showers if there’s no running water in their own apartments.

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As for Viktoriia, she said she would spend time with her mother in a small village, away from the danger, but also from the everyday amenities of the city.

“We have our own ways to cope, decentralized kind of, but it also is far from normal life conveniences,” Viktoriia explained.

For those less fortunate who are unable to leave or do not have a support network, humanitarian centers like those operated by Ivan Kukurudziak are there as a last resort.

Kukurudziak is a co-founder of a humanitarian center in Kyiv under Communita di Sant'Egidio, an Italian humanitarian community that has been providing help to those less fortunate since Ukraine’s independence in 1991.

It operates two centers in Kyiv, one in Ivano-Frankivsk, and one in Lviv, and is now mostly helping internally displaced refugees of the war.

Ukrainians receiving aid from the Communita di Sant'Egidio, humanitarian community Source: Ivan Kukurudziak

“We are dedicated to the poor, homeless, [and] old people and take care [of] them,” said Kukurudziak.

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According to Kukurudziak, the refugees he serves come from every part of Ukraine. Apart from material support, the center – located in different regions in Ukraine – also provides pharmaceutical and psychological support to those who need it.

So far, the humanitarian community has provided more than Hr.1 billion ($27.6 million) worth of food and medicine to Ukrainian refugees, Kukurudziak said.

Staff from Communita di Sant'Egidio. Source: Ivan Kukurudziak

Last winter was a difficult one, but they have since adapted to the circumstances and now operate a few generators to provide electricity to those who need it.

“Tens and hundreds of people may depend on our generators,” he said.

Despite having the generators, keeping them running is another issue. After receiving the generators from their humanitarian community in Italy, Kukurudziak and his organization still need to generate the resources themselves to operate them.

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“Petrol is like €5 per hour [to operate each generator], so we are very thankful for our friends from Italy. [...] But we are trying to generate resources for such things ourselves,” Kukurudziak said.

Beyond the basic supplies needed for survival, Kukurudziak also wanted to bring a glimmer of hope to the darkness of uncertainty that awaits.

“To be honest, we are also thinking about presents for Christmas for children, so it’s not only about electricity,” he said.

As Kyiv Post reported earlier, Russia has stockpiled more than 800 missiles in Crimea alone in anticipation of a likely move to strike Ukraine’s energy infrastructure throughout winter, and Russia likely retains the capability to manufacture additional missiles despite Western sanctions.

Data from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that five million people remain forcibly displaced in Ukraine, and the upcoming winter will be challenging for refugees not only due to a lack of electricity but also in finding a warm roof over their heads.

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Comments ( 1)

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Imokru2
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Kudos to volunteers and neighbours helping neighbours!

It must be noted that Ukraine has not been standing idly by as Mother Russia prepares for its winter missile attack.
Ukraine has the capability to strike Moscow with its own home grown missiles and there are several electrical generation stations in the area. Take some or all of those out and millions of katsaps are in darkness.
Ukraine might also know where some of these missiles are stored.

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