Russo-Ukraine War: In Lviv, a city of 700,000 renowned for its architectural beauty and cultural heritage, residents remained defiant but prepared for the worst.

Hundreds of people waited in the freezing cold at the station in Lviv, hoping to board a rare train to Poland.

Lviv, Ukraine:

For millions of Ukrainians, the Russian invasion five days earlier brought death, terror and uncertainty. For Mila Hadziva, an IT manager in the western city of Lviv, it brought a palpable clarity of purpose.

Hadzieva coordinates hundreds of volunteers working 24/7 at Lviv’s main distribution center for humanitarian aid, located in an art gallery in the shadow of a 19th-century palace. In better times, it mixed with tourists.

Today, the gallery’s halls are thronged by volunteers who sort mountains of donated goods—clothing, food, medical supplies—into boxes for distribution to those in need.

These include hundreds of people waiting at Lviv’s train station in sub-zero temperatures hoping to board a rare train to nearby Poland, and hundreds more in cars and buses congested across the border. Camping on the road.

“It’s not just our fight,” Hadziva said, as news of the devastating rocket attack in the war-torn eastern city of Kharkiv spread on social media. “We are protecting Europe. We are protecting democracy.”

He added that Ukraine’s supporters around the world now had “the final decision to make: are we fighting together or not?”

In Lviv, a city of 700,000 people renowned for its architectural beauty and cultural heritage, residents interviewed by Reuters remained defiant but prepared for the worst.

Air raid sirens have sounded more than a dozen times since the Russian offensive began on February 24, prompting many people to rush to basements and other shelters.

So far, no bombs had been dropped in Lviv, but surrounding cities were targeted. “We don’t know where and when the missiles might strike,” Hadziwa said.

And many Liopolitans – as the residents of Lviv are known in English – were still preparing for the final arrival of Russian troops.

Non-essential shops largely remained closed in what felt like an edgy reunion of Lviv’s pandemic shutdown in 2020. The sale of alcohol was banned in shops and restaurants from 6 pm to midnight on Monday because “it is important for everyone to stay focused,” according to the city’s media center.

“We will never forgive them”

Lviv is surrounded by military outposts manned by soldiers, leading to a long tail at night. Curfew remains from 10 pm to 6 am

A roundabout in southern Lviv was fortified with concrete barriers, sandbags and car tyres, with open spaces around it dotted with anti-tank “hedgehogs” made of scavenged metal.

Dozens of reservists in uniform stood outside a nearby military base, many of them veterans of previous campaigns against Russia in the Donbass. The poster outside the base read, “It is everyone’s duty to defend the country.”

Major Nazar Sobol welcomed the reservists, saying they would be briefed and given ammunition at the base, then deployed to stop any Russian advance.

It was not surprising to him that the vast army of Russia had not subdued the much smaller army of Ukraine. “It doesn’t matter how many you are,” he said. “It matters how prepared you are.”

When asked about the mood of his soldiers, the Major swore aloud in Russian and smiled: “We are very optimistic.”

Back at the Humanitarian Aid Center in Lviv, the same hope and defiance affected volunteers like Lilia Popovich, who until last week ran a local software company. She now sat among sharp boxes of canned food and sacks of potatoes.

“We will never forgive them,” he said of the invading Russians. “We will fight till the end. Till the end. Till the end.”

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