KYIV, Ukraine – During the first months of the war, Yulia Fedotovskyh found a coping mechanism to help her sleep at night: she scrolled through Telegram every night and looked at pictures of burned dead Russian soldiers and exploded.
At first, she says, looking at the pictures helped her feel safer. But now that the conflict drags on, she says she feels exhausted from the war. She tries to avoid the news and no longer gets the gratification of photographs.
“I was scrolling through Telegram every night before going to bed, it was hard to fall asleep otherwise,” said Ms Fedotovskyh, 32, a public relations manager for an information technology company. These days, she added, “I realize and have accepted that I can die at any time, and so I just live my life.”
Nearly five months into a bloody war in which Russia steadily gains territory, many Ukrainians remain angry and defy the invasion. But there’s also a creeping sense of resignation as the losses mount, and the mood grows increasingly bleak.
The fall of Lysychansk over the weekend, which handed the hotly contested eastern province of Luhansk to Russia, was just the latest in a series of blows, including some of the worst attacks on civilian targets since the invasion of Russia at the end of February. There was a missile strike on a shopping mall in the city of Kremenchuk that killed at least 20 people. A strike on a vacation town near Odessa that killed at least 21 people. A strike on a residential building in the capital that shattered the city’s fragile security veneer.
The movement of Russian troops from the capital at the end of March gave Ukrainians a strong sense of pride in their country and their army, and hope that victory could be quick. With the war showing few signs of abating, however, people are growing increasingly angry at the losses and expressing frustration that the Ukrainian government is downplaying the challenges ahead in a bid to boost morale.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who captivated the world with his determination and his signature green t-shirt, continues to address Ukrainians in nightly speeches full of determination and defiance.
“Something must be done regarding the policy of informing the population,” Sergii Neretin, a journalist and former deputy director of the Ukrainian Film Agency, wrote on Facebook.
He noted that Ukrainian officials had justified the withdrawal of their forces from the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk by saying it would help defend Lysychansk, its last major stronghold in the Luhansk region. Then Lysychansk fell.
“Almost every day we are given weapons, more and more powerful, and the pictures show how they coldly crush the enemy,” he wrote. “How should we view news about our achievements, power, and weapons supply in the future?” He asked. “Read between the lines or take them at their word?”
The war has also triggered a massive humanitarian crisis, forcing millions to flee their homes and severely affecting the livelihoods of Ukrainians.
Only 5% of Ukrainians say they are living comfortably on their current income, according to a poll released this week by the National Democratic Institute.
Yet a large majority of Ukrainians nonetheless retain strong faith in the armed forces as well as in President Zelensky, according to the poll.
Crowdfunding expert Svitlana Kolodiy, 34, said she was raising funds to support Ukrainian soldiers and was resigned to the fact that the war would last beyond the fall.
And few Ukrainians are interested in doing business with Russia. Ukrainians are “obviously indifferent to trading land for peace,” the NDI poll found. 89% of those polled said the only acceptable scenario was the recapture of all Russian-occupied territories, including the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014.
“There is no compromise with Russia,” said Mariana Horchenko, a 37-year-old dental worker from Kyiv. “Not after all the people who were killed.”