The blackouts in Kyiv creep up on you. There is no Hollywood moment when the whole city goes dark or when the twinkling lights of a block of flats go out in unison.
Instead, these cuts happen sporadically, with a sense of tiring unpredictability. The electricity will be cut from half a building, but not the other. They will come back on, then go off once more.
One side of the road will be lit up; the other will be dark.
The people of this country, and of this city, are well accustomed to dislocation and nervousness. From the very earliest days of this conflict, it’s been obvious that resilience runs like a seam through the Ukrainian national character.
But this is different. There is no adrenaline rush in coming home to find that your heating doesn’t work and you can’t cook food.
And so we visit Pozniaki, a Kyiv suburb to see how life continues as night falls and the electricity fails.
Nina ushers us into her apartment, using the torch on her mobile phone. She is 66 years old, blessed with a sense of energy and purpose.
Her apartment was damaged by shrapnel at the start of the war but she shrugs at the memory, as if it is a scar to be worth with pride. “I am not afraid of anything. I am at home – why should I be afraid of them? Let them fear us!”
But blackouts are different.
She says the apartment would be almost impossible to inhabit in winter if there were no electricity to power the heating system. “But let’s live and see how it will be.”
Beside her, a candle slowly burns down.
Life does go on. Pet cats and dogs come to see us. Children play in a playground, their parents standing nearby for the moment when the lights go out. And you also realise, once more, how mobile phones have changed our lives – almost everyone now has a torch in their pocket.
At the top of the block is Viktoria, who teaches English and is preparing to conduct lessons by candlelight. She is determined to persevere, despite the travails of life in this city “because I fight for the rights of my people, of my country. I am a patriot. I love my country. I am Kyivite and I am a Ukrainian”.
‘We are tenacious, we will survive’
Serhii guides us into the basement of the building. There is a new generator, bought with money clubbed together by the residents. They’ve also invested in some wood-burning stoves.
“I think you can still live here,” he tells me. “It is possible to survive somehow. We are tenacious people. We will survive.”
Tenacious, but also frazzled and fraught. Like the Blitz, when the myth of cheerful stoicism overtook the reality of fear and dread, Kyiv is a blend of emotions. You can, after all, accept that it is your national duty to accept blackouts but also be angry that you are in this situation in the first place.
We meet Ksenia as she is crossing the road with her husband and two children. She is an English teacher living in an apartment near the busy road. When she starts talking the words come rolling out, laced with tiredness and emotion.
“We haven’t got electricity. We haven’t got gas in our half of the building. I’ve got a little child and I can’t cook. I can’t feed him. It’s very bad.
“I can’t work because my work is online. I need electricity, but I haven’t got it. So at the end of this month, I hope I can earn money to buy food for my family.”
‘Life is impossible’
How difficult is life, I ask.
“It isn’t difficult, it’s impossible. I think it’s impossible to live in such situation, in such a difficult, strange situation, because it’s Kyiv. It’s the capital of Ukraine.
“Can you imagine how people live, for example, in the village or in another small town? It’s very difficult, but it’s better. They can make fire and cook there. We can’t even do this.”
It is all too easy to generalise about Ukrainians as a nation where every pain is accepted, and every hardship is a step towards victory.
But the reality is that life is hard for just about everyone here – emotionally, financially and physically. Across Ukraine, people do dream of victory, but what they also pine for is the simple pleasure of mundane normality.