Kiev residents have become accustomed to being without electricity for 12 hours a day, but the situation has recently gone from bad to worse as the Russian missile campaign continues to strain Ukraine’s power grid, causing further outages.
On Monday night, in a normally busy neighborhood on the east bank of the Dnipro River, almost everything was dark. One cafe was open thanks to a generator, but other shops, including a supermarket, and the apartment buildings had no power.
Without power, everything takes much longer – just as temperatures begin to drop. There are rows at ATMs, which only work when the power is on, and at stores and wellness centers that deliver basic groceries to the most deprived.
The power cuts have led to spontaneous street markets, even though they are unlicensed.
The residents of Kiev are improvising and adapting as they have for much of this year, but without any relief from the rocket attacks, many will choose to leave the city and spend the winter months sitting around a wood-burning stove.
On Sunday, Kiev’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said the city is preparing for worst-case scenarios in the event of further Russian attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure, potentially leaving it without power or water. He said: “Our enemies are doing everything they can to keep the city without heating, electricity and water, and in general they want us all to die.”
CNN has spoken to some of the city’s residents about the harsh reality ahead, including 21-year-old coffee shop barista Anna Ermantraut.
When she arrived at work at 8:30 a.m. Monday, there was no electricity. She said she eventually started working two hours later, but at noon the power went out again.
Ermantraut said the coffee shop’s revenues were more than halved and she couldn’t sell many cakes anymore because the fridges were out so often.
It’s not much better at home, she told CNN. If the electricity goes out there, she also loses the water supply.
Ermantraut said she was beginning to think about what to do if the power situation deteriorates further and Kiev is evacuated. She said she plans to move to a house in a nearby village that has a wood-burning stove and a well.
When CNN met 70-year-old retiree Lubov Mironenko, she had already queued for five hours at a welfare center for groceries. The ongoing power cuts have made it difficult to survive, she said.
Marya Litvinchuk, 29, a hairdresser, said the additional power cuts, in addition to the three scheduled each day, have exacerbated an already difficult situation.
When the power was cut off on a schedule, “you could schedule to work, yet work time was cut in half.” Of course, that meant that “revenues were also halved”.
In an effort to keep working, she ordered special battery-powered lights and bought a generator for $1,000 — though the average price of a haircut is just $6. Then came even more bad news when she found out she’d been scammed and the generator wasn’t working. She now has to take home electric clippers to charge them overnight.
Like Ermantraut, she plans to move to the countryside to stay with family if Kiev is evacuated.
Yuriy Pogulay, 39, is also suffering financially. Not too long ago, the small cafe jointly owned by Pogulay was open between 9am and 10pm – they now struggle to stay open for more than three hours.
He told CNN that revenues have dropped significantly and that they cannot keep food for long because they have tried to minimize refrigerator use.
“I have ordered a generator, but I don’t know when it will arrive,” he said.
Pogulay said the company was under financial pressure. “With the generator, my costs will go up, but I can’t raise prices because people’s economic situation has deteriorated.”
The World Bank has forecast that Ukraine’s economy may shrink by 40% or more this year as a result of the conflict.
One man who has suffered less than most is Anton Kargatov, a 36-year-old musician.
“I play music outside, so I don’t need electricity,” says Kargatov, who told CNN he has a sleeping bag and a power bank at home. “If Kiev is evacuated, I’m not going anywhere. There is a well of water not far from my house. And in the backyard I can cook dinner over a fire. I can’t go anywhere else.”
Victoria Storozh works at a pizzeria in the center of Kiev; the company suffers less from power outages than some because it is in an area close to government offices. Still, she said: “My husband and I are ready in case we all have to evacuate, we have a stock of firewood and water at our dacha in the Kiev region. We will get through the hard times there.”
Serhey Kizilov, 23, is a rehabilitation coach who works out of a basement gym. Lighting is just one of the issues he faces, he told CNN.
“Our entire sewage system depends on pumps that run on electricity. Also our ventilation system,” he said. “Even if we can light the rooms when there is no electricity, we can’t do anything about the sewage system and ventilation.
“My income also suffers because there are fewer people in the room – not everyone wants to practice under such conditions.”