A YOUNG man leaves a divided country in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum to seek out a cosmopolitan life; travelling across continents, meeting new people, experiencing the world.

A friend in Berlin tells him to travel east, to a vibrant city he calls “the new Berlin”, to which interesting people from around the world are flocking.

He moves to Kyiv, finds a flat and some months later there are 100,000 Russian troops massed on the border of Ukraine. Kyiv, the capital city Adam Carrington was told is one of the most happening places in Europe, is in turmoil. The country’s leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, has survived an attempted coup in December last year.

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Adam Carrington was told to travel to ‘the new Berlin’ by a friend

Carrington, originally from Johnstone, Renfrewshire, teaches English from his home in the Ukrainian capital. His Ukrainian friends mostly speak Russian. Many of them have carried arms before, during their compulsory military service. Some are prepared to do so again, in defence of their country, should the threat of Russian invasion be realised.

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For his part, the 32-year-old plans to leave in two weeks. But he hasn’t booked his ticket out.

“There is no way you can deal with it on a day-to-day basis; people have to live their lives,” says Carrington. “But you also have to bear in mind, if you have to leave the city quickly, you have to prepare for it.

“I’m leaving in two weeks’ time but I won’t book my flight or my bus until the last minute. I have to be flexible. If there is an invasion tomorrow, I am going the next day – it’s as simple as that.

“If I book two weeks’ in advance, that’s me feeling there would still be flights or buses but there is no guarantee. I don’t want to make plans for the future when I might need to make plans tomorrow.”

The National: KYIV, UKRAINE - JANUARY 28: Supporters of Ukraine's former President, Petro Poroshenko listen to speeches and chant slogans while waiting for Petro Poroshenko to arrive outside the Kyiv District Court of Appeal on January 28, 2022. Poroshenko is

The threat of Russian military aggression has caused deep anxiety among Carrington’s friends in his adopted city.

TimeOut magazine named the historic Zoloti Vorota neighbourhood in the city as the 16th coolest place in the world. A “perfect day” in the area would see you enjoy an eggs benedict brunch, a trendy coffee, slouching around a hip art gallery and admiring the architecture before unwinding with a few drinks at an arty cocktail bar. It doesn’t mention failing diplomatic relations, cyberwarfare, threats of sanctions and the hulking steel of Russian tanks on your doorstep.

For Carrington’s part, he prefers to spend time in the more student-y Podil – which he compared to Glasgow’s Finnieston. “Zoloti Vorota is the place you’d hang out on a Saturday night if you have money.

“Podil is more hipster, a Finnieston type of neighbourhood. It’s a more arty neighbourhood where you’d find cheaper places, more younger people.

“I came to Ukraine for the first time exactly two years ago. I was visiting on the recommendation of some friends in Germany and they said, ‘You need to go to Ukraine. It’s a really happening place, there are really cool things going on in Kyiv, you need to check it out, it’s the new Berlin’.”

But as they sip coffee and cocktails, Carrington’s friends discuss the imminent threat of war and whether they would be willing to fight against an invading army.

The National: PABRADE, LITHUANIA - JANUARY 27: Lithuanian Soldiers from the King Mindaugas Hussar Battalion during shooting training in Silvestras Zukauskas landfill on January 27, 2022 in Pabrade, Lithuania. Tensions between the NATO military alliance and Russia are

“People are preparing for war in this country and what they will do in that situation. Will they go to their country homes, will they stay in the city, will they pick up arms and fight soldiers as they walk down the streets?

“In Ukraine, military service is compulsory for all men. Most of the Ukrainian friends I have who are guys have served in the military. Handling a gun for them is not as foreign to them as it would be to us.

“There are people who simply don’t want to engage with it at all, they’re just trying to live their lives the way they always have done. There are people who are upset about the situation, who are trying to insulate themselves from all the noise and hysteria.

“There is a lot of dramatic news, like ‘Breakdowns in talks between Biden and Putin’. This has a real impact on people here because these are people’s homes and jobs.

“People are scared about this happening, that are angry about this and there are people who are preparing for war.”

He may stay with his girlfriend Elena in Berlin once he leaves the country but has no fixed plans for the future. But others do not have the dubious luxury of packing up and leaving.

“Many people have built their lives here,” says Carrington.

“They can’t just get up and go so easily. Many Ukrainians will stay here no matter what happens and try to deal with the situation as best they can.

“What’s important to remember is this is an alien situation: this is a democratic country, there is an external threat from beyond the borders threatening to come in and change things in a way people didn’t vote for or ask for.”

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If the threat of invasion seems acute in Ukraine itself, it remains an abstract concern for most in the West. In any case, anti-interventionist sentiment in the UK and Germany is so strong, it seems unlikely British troops will be drawn in.

But principled pacifism is easy when you’re not staring down the gun turret of a tank. “People commenting from the West don’t understand the need for military action in Ukraine to defend itself,” says Carrington.

“They say we won’t give military support because we don’t agree with war. Ukraine can defend itself to a point but without international support, it cannot survive against the Russian military.

“Any democratic nation should feel a responsibility to protect Ukraine. If we allow Ukraine to go to Russia, we’re sacrificing 40 million people.”