Lviv: inside Ukraine’s back office

By Philippe Schockweiler

Resilient civil society action, built from bottom up instead of top down, helps Ukraine to stem the war effort, and plan for a peaceful and sustainable future. For the brave civil society in Lviv, no matter how big the challenge, they are eager to tackle it. The Lëtzebuerger Journal was inside Ukraine's clandestine capital city Lviv during Orthodox Easter and spoke to Victor Artemenko.

Before turning into a Western Ukrainian city, Lviv was a center of cultural, ethnic and religious clashes. Situated in historic Galicia, Austrians, Germans, Polish and ultimately Ukrainians fought for the "city of lions". Following the Soviet decay, the city fell back into Ukrainian hands in 1991. Today, Lviv is home to important parts of Ukraine’s IT sector and the unofficial logistical heart and lungs of Ukraine. Indeed, Lviv is the entry point for most military and humanitarian aid for all of Ukraine, since ports in the South are blocked by the Russian Navy, and the de-facto air superiority of Russia makes strategic air lifts virtually impossible. We hitchhike a ride with several Ukrainian defenders from the small border town in Shehyni to the city of Lviv across foggy pothole filled rural streets and small villages, each with barricades out of rubber tires and concrete blocks in the village entrances. The war visibly starts just across the border.

Lviv is different than the years before: The rich historic Austrian, Polish and Ukrainian architecture cannot shine through the invisible fog of war, that covers the true beauty of this city. The cultural city is now the distribution center and dispatching point for all sorts of goods. Makeshift and hidden depots all over Lviv give the city the flair of a John Le Carré spy novel. It is now home to camouflaged silhouettes popping up behind barbed-wire walls and shallow backyards, exchanging quick glances while hushing materials into trucks and trains, hidden in plain sight, but accompanied by the muffled sounds of metal straps clinking on Kalashnikov rifles.

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