After months of war, Ukrainians brace for winter: A photojournalist’s dispatch

The funeral for Denis Metyolkin was held at the Saints Peter and Paul Garrison Church
The funeral for Denis Metyolkin was held at the Saints Peter and Paul Garrison Church in Lviv, Ukraine after he was killed in action on the eastern front. Denis Metyolkin worked as a postman before going back into the Ukrainian military to serve his country.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)
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The 2022 Russian war in Ukraine is in its eighth month, with no end in sight.

Ukrainians are preparing themselves for winter, a little more than a month away, as Russian forces target the nation’s infrastructure with missile strikes.

The Times’ Carolyn Cole is on the ground in Ukraine and will be filing first-person dispatches from cities whose residents worry about staying warm as temperatures drop.

Follow Cole on Twitter and Instagram.

November 28, 2022

It’s a daily ritual in central Lviv.

A funeral was held for Denis Metyolkin, a postal carrier killed in action on the eastern front.
A funeral was held for Denis Metyolkin, a postal carrier killed in action on the eastern front.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

Family and friends gather at the Saints Peter and Paul Garrison church to pay tribute to another fallen soldier.

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Today it was for Denis Metyolkin, a 39-year-old postman who rejoined the military and was sent to defend his country.

The funeral for Denis Metyolkinat the Saints Peter and Paul Garrison Church in Lviv, Ukraine.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

The weeping family rocks in pain beside the casket as sounds of prayers and hymns fill the sanctuary.

Afterwards, busy street life comes to a brief halt. The the casket passes in a procession to the cemetery.

The funeral for Denis Metyolkin, age 39, was held at the Saints Peter and Paul Garrison Church in Lviv, Ukraine.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

Many didn’t know Denis, but all stop to pay respects.

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November 26, 2022

Children hold lighted candles in memory of the victims of the Holodomor

A boy holds a lit candle.
Ukrainians gather in central Lviv in remembrance of the Holodomor famine. The Holodomar was a man-made famine from 1932-1933 that killed millions of Ukrainians.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

November 25, 2022

A couple say good-bye on a train platform in Lviv, Ukraine
On the train platform in Lviv, Ukraine, Karina Gudova, says a final goodbye to her boyfriend Vitaliy Lomnytskyi. Lomnytskyi was called up for military service, while Gudova will go to Germany for an unknown amount of time.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

A quiet goodbye on train platform in Lviv.

Vitaliy will begin military service, Karina will go to Germany.

They have no idea when they will see each other again.

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A child hugs her father on a train platform
Five-year-old Dasha, holds on to her father, Alexander Bryzhko, a Ukrainian Army officer from Khakiv, Ukraine. Alexander is sending his wife and two children to the United Kingdom, as the war drags on into the winter.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

November 23, 2022

All power is out in Mykolaiv after Russian bombed multiple power stations today.

At the train station in Mykolaiv, people wait for the train to Kyiv in the darkness.
At the train station in Mykolaiv, people wait for the train to Kyiv in the darkness.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

November 20, 2022

Ludmila and Slava met one month before the Russian invasion of Kherson.

Ludmila and Slava share a kiss in Kherson.
Ludmila and Slava share a kiss in Kherson.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

“It seems like 10 years,” said Lucy about their 10 month relationship.

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They are now expecting a baby.

November 19, 2022

Hundreds of people gathered at the Kherson train station to await the arrival of the first train to the city since the liberation from Russian occupation.

Man greets wife with a hug and single rose.
Nokolai Desyitnyekor greeted his wife Ludmila with a hug and a single rose. He ran along with the train as it arrived to reach car number 10.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

November 16, 2022

Nearly one week after the liberation of Kherson, the city is barely functioning.

No electricity, no running water, people are hungry and in need of medicine.

People line up in the main square in Kherson to get clothing.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)
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Some soldiers on leave take time to stop at the central plaza to sign autographs and give out hugs.

Yuliya Voitu, 13, is lifted in the air by a member of the Ukrainian Army.
Yuliya Voitu, 13, wearing a huge smile and a furry hat with spangly kitten ears is lifted in the air by a member of the Ukrainian Army. Voitu wrapped herself in a Ukrainian flag on which she had collected the signatures of dozens of soldiers. “I want to keep this as a memory,” she said.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

War crimes investigations, mine clearance, passport checks continue as the Ukrainian troops push east towards the frontline.

A woman with a Russian passport is stopped and questioned by police in Kherson.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

November 15, 2022

The villages north of Kherson sustained some of the heaviest damage as the Ukrainian Army battled to retake the city last Friday.

One rural village had less than 25 people left.

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Members of a Ukrainian Army tank platoon get warm by a fire beside a bus stop riddled with bullet holes.
Members of a Ukrainian Army tank platoon get warm by a fire beside a bus stop riddled with bullet holes.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)
A member of the Ukrainian Special Forces holds a Russian missile cassette that carried cluster bombs.
A member of the Ukrainian Special Forces holds a Russian missile cassette that carried cluster bombs. The village and surrounding farm land is littered with missile cassette, some which did not explode.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

The landscape is pockmarked with cluster bomb cassettes sticking out of the ground like some new crop.

The danger of mines if very real.

A Ukrainian Army tank platoon waits on the side of the road after one of their tanks hit a mine and was blown off the road.
Near the village of village of Shyroke, a Ukrainian Army tank platoon waits on the side of the road after one of their tanks hit a mine and was blown off the road.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

A Ukrainian tank platoon was stopped in their tracks after one hit a mine that blew it off the road.

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Mine clearance will be going on for months and years to come.

November 14, 2022

Heavy Russian bombing destroyed the city-wide water and electrical systems in Mykolaiv, a riverfront town important to the Ukrainian shipping industry.

Drinking water must be hand carried from local distribution spots – most homes go without heating.

Families brings bottles to fill with clean water at a park in Mykolaiv.
Families brings bottles to fill with clean water at a park in Mykolaiv, which was a frontline city until the Russians retreated. Residents are facing a long cold winter, as the water pumping station and pipes that delivered water to the city has been destroyed.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)
A man carries donated supplies from one of eight aid centers in Mykolaiv.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

It will be a long time before the city recovers fully, but for now, people are breathing a sign of relief.

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Two women have coffee and share their cheesecake with a stray cat at a coffee shop in Mykolaiv.
Two women have coffee and share their cheesecake with a stray cat at a coffee shop in Mykolaiv. The mood is more relaxed since the Russians have withdrawn some 50 kilometers away.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

November 12, 2022

With the surprising retreat of Russian troops from Kherson, celebrations broke out in Kyiv and other cities around the country.

Ukrainians gather in Independence Square in Kyiv, Ukraine to celebrate the withdrawal of Russian troops from Kherson
Ukrainians gather in Independence Square in downtown Kyiv to celebrate the withdrawal of Russian troops from Kherson.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

Leaving the celebrations for a six-hour train ride to Odesa and on to Mykolaiv, a riverfront town important to the Ukrainian shipping industry.

November, 11, 2022

At the National Academy Ivan Franko Drama Theater, actress Vira Zinevych-Mazur prepares to go on stage
At the National Academy Ivan Franko Drama Theater, actress Vira Zinevych-Mazur prepares to go on stage in ‘A Street Car Named Desire.’
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

November 10, 2022

Driving north out of Kyiv, signs of war remain, including checkpoints, bunkers and burned-down buildings.

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Several people in heavy coats pause near bare trees on a sidewalk, most kneeling and one apparently in tears
Residents of Borodyanka, Ukraine, north of Kyiv, pause in tribute as a funeral procession for Oleksii Kozlenko, 32, passes en route to the cemetery. The well-known husband and father was killed on the front line in Bakhmut.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

The village of Borodyanka, which I visited in April as mass graves were being uncovered, has come back to life despite devastating damage along Center Street.

Mothers stroll with baby carriages while children play in the shadow of ruins. Coffee huts, food stalls and barber shops are open for business even as the power goes off and on due to shortages.

A group of people in dark clothes or military camouflage follow a flower-covered casket on a city street
A procession of family and friends follow Oleksii Kozlenko’s casket through his hometown of Borodyanka, Ukraine. Residents of the town, left in ruins by Russian troops several months ago, are working to rebuild and carry on as winter draws near.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

With winter on its way, many residents are busy sealing broken windows and doors to keep out the cold.

But everyone stops what they are doing as a funeral procession for a local soldier killed in action moves slowly down Center Street. They kneel along the curb to pay respect to yet another fallen soldier, father and friend from their community.

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The residents of Borodyanka have lost so much, but say they will rebuild the city they love.

November 9, 2022

The moon shines bright over downtown Kyiv, helping to fend off darkness.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Darkness comes early in Kyiv at this time of year, along with the cold, long nights. The city is home to some 3 million people, many who have come seeking safety from the war.

Most leave work after dark, and often take their time heading home, stopping at the surprising number of restaurants open around town.

A man's phone lights up his face as he stands on a darkening city street
Vlad Khlopenko takes a work break outside at dusk amid in Kyiv’s rolling blackouts and voluntary power shutoffs.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

It’s not what you would expect in a country at war, but Ukrainians pride themselves on not letting the war define their existence.

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Life goes on as normally as possible.