Ukrainians Prepare for a Solemn Wartime New Year’s Eve

December 30, 2022Nolan Peterson
Kyiv New Year’s Eve

A memorial to people killed by Russia's full-scale war, located on Kyiv's central square, the Maidan, on Dec. 23, 2022. Photo by Nolan Peterson/Coffee or Die.

KYIV, Ukraine — No one knows how dark Kyiv’s streets will be when the clocks strike midnight this New Year’s Eve, but one thing is for sure — those streets will be empty.

More than 10 months after Russia’s full-scale invasion began, a nightly curfew remains in effect in Ukraine’s capital city and across the country. The measure will not lift on New Year’s Eve. Even so, many Ukrainians are unfazed by this year's wartime restrictions. Tanya Snopko, a communications specialist from Kyiv who volunteered to support the war effort, said she plans to ignore the upcoming holiday altogether.

“I still live like it’s the 24th of February, so all the holidays don’t matter to me,” Snopko told Coffee or Die Magazine, referring to the day Russia launched its invasion. “I don’t really care about curfew or lack of light. I try to be helpful to my country every moment of this year, including the 31st of December. I think the time for the festive mood will come with victory."


The decorated remnants of military fortifications in Kyiv in December 2022. The sign reads: "Children shouldn’t see the war." Photo by Nolan Peterson/Coffee or Die.

In a televised news program on Monday, Maryana Reva, press secretary for Ukraine’s national police, said police officers will arrest anyone who violates the curfew on New Year’s Eve.

“People need to understand that no matter what day we have — a holiday or a non-holiday — there are certain curfew requirements. Police will stop people, check their documents, and take them to police units to establish their identity,” Reva said, adding that a nationwide fireworks ban also remains in place.

New Year’s is typically the biggest holiday of the year in Ukraine. Ukraine’s Santa Claus equivalent, Father Frost, is traditionally associated with New Year’s celebrations. During the post-Soviet era, it became a tradition for those who stayed home on New Year's Eve to watch the American movie, Home Alone.


Kyiv's Sophia Square on Dec. 23, 2022. Photo by Nolan Peterson/Coffee or Die.

The soundtrack to the 1990 Christmas classic features the song, "Carol of the Bells," which is based on a Ukrainian folk New Year’s chant called “Shchedryk.” Written by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych in 1914, students at Kyiv University first performed the song in December 1916.

Typically, holiday revelers filled Sophia’s Square in downtown Kyiv. Standing shoulder to shoulder, those in the crowd listened to live music performances and chanted a midnight countdown. Afterward, bars and restaurants across the city stayed open late into the night.

This year, the ongoing curfew promises a starkly different New Year’s Eve in Ukraine’s capital city. So, too, does the specter of the ongoing war, which has left many Ukrainians to worry about their friends and relatives serving on the front lines.

“I’m okay with those people who have the time and possibility to celebrate New Year’s Eve. There is no need to postpone life,” Snopko said. “But my younger brother serves [in the army], my uncle is in the Donetsk region, and I have many friends fighting for Ukraine. I wish we could sit at the holiday table together.”

The ground war to repel Russia's invasion force remains mired in a bloody impasse on the southern and eastern front lines. Meanwhile, Russian missile and drone strikes continue to target Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, including the power grid, and to hit residential areas nationwide. On Dec. 29, a massive Russian missile attack targeted cities across Ukraine, including Kyiv. The strikes spurred emergency power grid shutdowns that left about 40% of the capital city without electricity.

Russia has damaged more than 700 critical infrastructure sites across Ukraine since the full-scale war began, First Deputy Interior Minister Yevhen Yenin said on Tuesday, Dec. 27.

On Christmas Eve, Russia attacked downtown Kherson with BM-21 “Grad” rockets, killing at least 10 civilians. According to the United Nations, Russian attacks have killed some 6,884 civilians since Feb. 24 — although many experts say the actual number may be much higher, since there has not been an accurate accounting of civilian casualties in areas under Russian occupation, such as Mariupol.

The nationwide curfew began after martial law went into effect on Feb. 24. The curfew’s hours are not uniform throughout the country. In certain regions such as Kyiv, the curfew goes from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

menorah kyiv

A menorah on Kyiv's central square, the Maidan, on Dec. 23, 2022. Photo by Nolan Peterson/Coffee or Die Magazine.

In other areas, such as the Lviv Oblast, the curfew begins at midnight and lifts at 5 a.m. In the city of Kherson, which Ukrainian forces recently liberated and which remains under Russian artillery and rocket fire, the curfew lasts from 7 p.m. until 6:30 a.m.

During curfew hours, it is illegal to be in public areas or on the streets, either on foot or in a vehicle.

Andrii Fedotov, a social worker who lives in Kyiv, said he plans to spend New Year's Eve with his girlfriend’s family, who live in the western Ukrainian city of Rivne.

"They have a much better situation with electricity there. If there will be no electricity, it also is not a problem, we bought a lot of cheap, church-made candles, which have a nice effect and create an even better mood for celebration,” Fedotov told Coffee or Die.

“Due to the curfew, we will stay at home and probably will talk and reflect on this long and uneasy year, hoping that next year will bring peace to our families and the freedom to travel again.”

Read Next: Ukrainians Won’t Let Russia Steal Their Christmas

Nolan Peterson
Nolan Peterson
Nolan Peterson is a senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine and the author of Why Soldiers Miss War. A former US Air Force special operations pilot and a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Nolan is now a conflict journalist and author whose adventures have taken him to all seven continents. In addition to his memoirs, Nolan has published two fiction collections. He lives in Kyiv, Ukraine, with his wife, Lilya.
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