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'We cannot put our lives on pause': Ukrainians find normalcy and fun at a ski resort


Many Ukrainians live a dual existence. Their country's at war, but there are moments of normalcy - of fun and joy. One of the ways some families in Kyiv had found respite is a small ski resort right in the city. NPR's Elissa Nadworny visited for some night skiing and sent this report.

ELISSA NADWORNY, BYLINE: There's a snowstorm happening in Kyiv right now. The powder is falling thick and fast. About a foot is landing. It's been at least a day since the last air raid siren and missile attack. Seems like a perfect time to go skiing. This amazing snow is what brought Ivan Kovaliov out.

IVAN KOVALIOV: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: "I'm here to ski," the 9-year-old says with a grin.

He's on the ski team here at Protasiv Yar, where the Ukrainian national team has trained.

IVAN: (Non-English language spoken).

NADWORNY: Today, he skied with one ski, he tells us, and practiced jumps.

His mom, Kateryna Ponomarenko, is out at the base of the main slope. The floodlights are on - there's night skiing until 9 p.m. - illuminating the 100 or so skiers and snowboarders making their way down.

KATERYNA PONOMARENKO: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: "I'm so happy for everyone here trying to live," says Kateryna.

PONOMARENKO: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: "Ukrainians have all experienced so much stress and fear," she says.

PONOMARENKO: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: "Pulling yourself out of the house," she says, helps her and her son stay out of a depression.

At the small resort, you can take lessons, rent skis or snowboards. It's the second season since the war began. And there's a cafe with food and hot cocoa and powerful backup generators if the power goes out, the potential for a Russian missile attack always present.

In front of one of the machines making snow, Roman Kobylinsky is starting a lesson...

ROMAN KOBYLINSKY: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: ...With twin 6-year-olds, Kira and Dima.


KOBYLINSKY: (Speaking Ukrainian).

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: (Non-English language spoken).

KOBYLINSKY: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: Roman leads them in a warm-up.

KOBYLINSKY: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: Only one rope lift is operating when we visit. That's so it's easier to evacuate if there's an aerial attack. Roman guides the twins over to it.

KOBYLINSKY: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: They grab the rubber handles that will pull them up the hill.

KOBYLINSKY: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: "Well done," Roman says. "Hold on tight."


NADWORNY: Inside the lodge, benches are packed with people warming up. Nazar Motzah, who is 8, has just finished a lesson. His cheeks are flushed.

NAZAR MOTZAH: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: "I liked it," he says, a huge smile on his face. His mom, Marta, is beaming.

MARTA: His first experience.

NADWORNY: First day today?

MARTA: Yes (laughter).

NADWORNY: What did it feel like?

NAZAR: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: "Initially, I was afraid," he says.

NAZAR: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: "But then I studied the slope."

NAZAR: Whoo (ph).

NADWORNY: He motions with his hands, showing the angles. Marta and her husband got him this lesson as a holiday present.

MARTA: We are waiting for victory, but we can't put our life on the stop.

(Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: "Are you tired?" - his mom asks.

NAZAR: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: "It seems that I don't feel fatigued because I have a boost of joy," he says.

MARTA: (Laughter).

NADWORNY: And that boost of joy...

MARTA: (Laughter).

NADWORNY: ...I think we could all be interested in that.

Elissa Nadworny, NPR News, at a ski resort in Kyiv.

(SOUNDBITE OF L.A.B. SONG, "TAKE IT AWAY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Elissa Nadworny
Elissa Nadworny is an NPR Correspondent, covering higher education.