The Russians may be at the door, but no one’s panicking in Kyiv

Yevhen Mahda, executive director at the Institute of World Policy, was quick to remind me that Russia’s war against Ukraine is already eight years old and has cost 14,000 lives.

Members of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces train in a city park in Kyiv.

Members of Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces train in a city park in Kyiv.Credit:AP

But most think Russia will not invade just because it can, and will meet stiff resistance if it does.

“Will Russia expand its aggression? It is possible, but we are ready for it. There is no panic or desire to capitulate among Ukrainians. I am sure that millions of our fellow citizens are ready to repel the aggressor, ”Mahda explained.

Ukrainians received similar messaging from comic-turned-president Volodymyr Zelensky. In an address to the nation, Zelensky said “we are not afraid because we protect our land. We will not give up because there is nowhere to run. ”

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To feel the mood for myself, I went to Yaroslava, a Soviet-era cafe and my favorite in Kyiv. With warm lights and floor-to-ceiling views of the streetscape outside. Standing in line, Stanislav Troianov, a local journalist, politely informed me that Yaroslava has the best buns in the city. I needed no reminding since they were my new winter belly’s chief suspect. I proceeded to order a cappuccino and he, a cinnamon bun. I was not forgiven. Though he was kind enough to share his thoughts with me anyway.

“From the very beginning, I collected my ‘just in case’ backpack. In it, I keep money, important documents, some clothes and a first aid kit. Now when I meet a person, I think in passing, ‘what is in this man’s backpack?’ ”He said.

“Each of us is ready, and although it’s not openly discussed, we all know what we will do in case of escalation – keep calm and do not panic, as now.”

Serhiy Ogorodnyk put this in context for me: “war looms over Ukraine like the Sword of Damocles.” A journalist and teacher of Ukrainian language during the week, Ogorodnyk spends his Saturdays training with the Kyiv Territorial Defense Brigade, a volunteer military unit likely to lead resistance in a post-invasion Kyiv.

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“I understand that Ukraine is now trapped, but we are ready to defend ourselves without fear. After eight years, I’m tired of being afraid. ”

Surely, the results from last Wednesday’s high-stakes talks in Paris are a vote of confidence for diplomacy. The fact talks took place at all, and that more are scheduled for Berlin, gives hope sanity will prevail. But Kyiv residents seem ready if it does not. For now at least, it’s all quiet on the Eastern front.

Tennyson Dearing is an international laws graduate from UNSW Sydney, now living in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

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