Life goes on in the Ukrainian capital, but the war has turned it upside down

Kyiv — The war in ukraine showed how difficult it is to live anything like a normal life when fights are going on around you. More than 4 million people have fled the country since the Russian invasion five weeks ago, but 90% of the country’s population has remained, and they are trying to do their jobs and support their families despite the onslaught .

CBS News correspondent Debora Patta caught up with some of the people who have found a way to keep operating amid the chaos in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.

Thousands of people have fled the worst of the war to the relative safety of Kyiv and surrounding towns. In Brovary, on the eastern outskirts of the capital, Katya found refuge in a kindergarten with her four children after her house burned down. Now she shares a classroom with more than 25 other people.

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Katya, right, is seen with her daughter, left, at a kindergarten in the kyiv suburb of Brovary, where she and her four children took refuge after their house burned down during the invasion Russian from Ukraine. They share the classroom with more than 25 other people. / Credit: CBS News

She told Patta she still didn’t feel safe – fearing the Russians were coming.

Nowhere is completely safe in kyiv, where the sirens of air raids and distant bombings have become the soundtrack of everyday life. The once bustling heart of the city has largely emptied out. It is now a heavily fortified military area.

Before the war, Victor was an electrician. He hadn’t picked up a gun for 12 years, since he’d served his mandatory conscription. But CBS News found him among the tens of thousands of civilians who took up arms to protect kyiv from Russian invaders.

Before Russia invaded Ukraine, Victor was an electrician.  CBS News found him among the tens of thousands of civilians who took up arms to guard kyiv.  / Credit: CBS News

Before Russia invaded Ukraine, Victor was an electrician. CBS News found him among the tens of thousands of civilians who took up arms to guard kyiv. / Credit: CBS News

“At first, I was very amazed at what was happening,” he told Patta. “Then I realized it wasn’t a joke. It’s actually a patriotic war.” Surprisingly, grocery stores are always open in Kyiv, and when there’s no physical comfort to be found, there’s always the spiritual.

Prayers for peace inside the iconic St. Michael’s Cathedral have never been more urgent.

Gunmen patrol the streets of downtown kyiv near the monastery and the golden-domed St. Michael's Cathedral on February 26, 2022, just days after Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine.  / Credit: ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty

Gunmen patrol the streets of downtown kyiv near the monastery and the golden-domed St. Michael’s Cathedral on February 26, 2022, just days after Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine. / Credit: ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty

In an underground bar turned bunker, young volunteers relax and tell stories of the war while outside, others prepare cocktails – like Molotovs. Instead of partying all night, they help provide food and shelter for exhausted fighters. Max Paliienko still walks to work every morning to open his flower shop in the capital’s basement. Instead of picking up a gun, he reaches out for friendship, sells flowers and hope.

“It’s my job to bring smiles and happiness,” he told Patta. “I stay in Kyiv.”

Max Paliienko works in his basement florist in the Ukrainian capital of kyiv.   / Credit: CBS News

Max Paliienko works in his basement flower shop in kyiv, the Ukrainian capital. / Credit: CBS News

Katya and her children, housed in the kindergarten on the outskirts of kyiv, know they are also here to stay. They are afraid, but they have nowhere to go. Like the other 6 million people expected to seek refuge in Ukraine after fleeing their homes, their lives have been turned upside down by the war in Russia.

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