Lviv in the summer of 2023 has the vibe of a holiday resort. Here, air-raid alarms are rare, and I have this feeling of stability and safety that most Ukrainians have forgotten. This is the place where I sleep well.
When I was there two weeks ago, I was struck by the bustling restaurants, bright souvenir shops, street performers and market stalls. This was in stark contrast to Kyiv, Dnipro, Odesa, not to mention Kharkiv, which is shelled almost daily by the Russians.
In wartime, west Ukraine has become a safe haven for many from regions closer to Russian troops or falling rockets. People go there to recover, and to get some rest from stress and threats. Some establishments near the precious mineral water springs are booked out well into October. This has never happened before. And that is a blessing.
Not only do civilians recover in Lviv, but also military personnel. Several clinics in the region have been converted into rehabilitation centres, and the biggest prosthetics facility called Unbroken is also here. The land forces academy and army units are located in the city, and the military often observe the jubilant civilian life without fascination.
“Here are so many wounded people and soldiers, who are spending a free day before they are sent to the frontline. If a soldier visits a bar, he sees many tourists, men of his age, resting, having fun, and drinking alcohol. They won’t risk their lives tomorrow, but he will,” my former colleague who was mobilised and had training in Lviv, desperately said.
But many comrades at the frontline see this situation as natural and even positive. As MP-turned-soldier Yehor Firsov said: “When I see a full restaurant, it feels so good. We maintain the front so that they can continue to live a life.”