Ukraine youth seek respite from war where they can

Saturday night was always time for the trendy youth of Lviv to sip cocktails on the terrace or lose themselves in the rhythms of the basement DJ at “People Place”.

Yet while the nightlife on offer to urban cool cats ostensibly caters to typical young adult tastes, some customers are in contrast seeking refuge from the war on their doorstep which has shattered normality.

In almost three months of conflict, Lviv, some 70 kilometres (45 miles) from the Polish border, has not experienced the destruction of large swathes of Ukraine’s east.

Yet the city has just suffered its first air strike in more than a week — and the shadow of the war hangs heavy over a city of some 700,000 which has seen major inflows of refugees from areas hit by fighting.

Saturday night is therefore a chance for young residents to seek respite where they can and enjoy the rising temperatures of early summer while teasing out a semblance of pre-war “normality” in clubs, eateries and watering holes.

Cradling a Spritz cocktail at “People Place”, 25-year-old Bohdan Sharhulenk drinks in a moment’s calm a month on from his own arrival in Lviv after the hellish experience of seeing his southern hometown of Mykolaiv, near the frontline, bombarded.

“It’s very hard to have a normal life when you know your friends are fighting with the Russian aggressor,” he explains, dragging nervously on a cigarette.

But, he adds, “it’s important to party, your mind can relax.

“Once, I danced a bit of techno.”

Since his arrival in town he has spent several evenings with a clutch of acquaintances from across the country — most of that time spent in houses or apartments as the city is subject to an 11 pm curfew.