It’s been great living in Kyiv for the past year, meeting new people and learning the ins & outs of the most easterly country in Europe. I have identified many quirky things about Ukraine like staff food, ride-share roulette, and constant bicycle couriers, but living arrangements are definitely unique. There’s a nightly 12:00 am curfew and the metro train stops running at 10:30pm. Obviously, this can wreak havoc on plans to get home, but like so many other realities of life during wartime, Ukrainians have adapted seemingly effortlessly.
Due to the unpredictable daily routine caused by air raids, living arrangements have become more fluid as well. Everyone I know has at least one room to call their own, plus a dozen other flats around the city where they can crash on a couch as the curfew approaches. Your house is yours, but your house is also your friend’s place as well.
We are enjoying a beautiful, hot summer in Kyiv and the rooftop bar at hotel Bursa is packed nearly every night. Because of the curfew most establishments close at 10:00 pm, and once everything is cleaned up and ready for the next day, it’s time to relax with friends and catch up.
Everyone knows each other and enjoys spending time blowing off the steam of wartime, but sometimes the revelry ends up changing your plans. Occasionally, you miss the last train and are forced to play ride-share roulette hoping to strike the Uber jackpot. Other times, you’re having so much fun you just want to keep the party going.
All of these scenarios cause you to wonder, where to sleep tonight? If you miss the metro, you can stay at a friend’s flat in Podil. If you’re unable to get a ride-share, stay with someone who lives closer to your neighbourhood so you can get home quickly in the morning to change before tomorrow’s shift. If you and your friends decide to keep the party going, it’s assumed that all be staying wherever the party continues.
Mi Casa es tu Casa
Everyone carries a spare toothbrush, and many even keep one at their friend’s place. Everyone is welcome everywhere.
I’ve never been fortunate enough to call dozens of friend’s homes my own anytime I needed a place to stay. Perhaps that’s what war does to people – bringing them closer by forcing everyone to adapt to new realities. Or maybe, it’s something uniquely Ukrainian to think of everyone as family and everyone’s house as your home as well.
Regardless of where you’re from, when you’re in Ukraine or just a Canadian lucky enough to have wonderful Ukrainian friends, you’ll always have a home – and that’s certainly worth fighting for.