IT’S cold here in Kyiv, bitterly cold. Since my arrival five days ago, the temperature has almost constantly been sub-zero, averaging -6C, and these past mornings have seen fresh falls of overnight snow.

It’s such a contrast to my last visit to Ukraine in August and September of last year when not only was there warm sunshine but power blackouts were rare, unless, of course, you were living in one of the many devastated communities that straddle the hundreds of miles of frontline in this war.

As I write, the news from the most fiercely fought-over frontline cities of Soledar and neighbouring Bakhmut is of battlefields that have been compared to the horrors of the First World War. As Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy aptly described it: “This is what madness looks like.”

Here in 2023, there is something quite surreal about the images surfacing from these trenches and the accounts of those Ukrainian troops facing off against the Russian invaders of their land in this obliterated landscape of frozen bomb craters, foxholes, slit trenches and shattered streets and houses.

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Killing the enemy and battling the hardships of the freezing winter is the order of the day in places where Russian forces, many of them mercenaries from the Wagner Group, are said to advance stepping over the corpses of those who made up previous assault waves only to be mown down by Ukrainian fire.

Not that the Ukrainians are having it all their own way – far from it. Every day sees a dogged fight and refusal to give ground amid unconfirmed reports – at time of writing – that Soledar’s labyrinth of miles of disused salt mine tunnels is almost in Russian hands.

While little compares to the nightmarish toe-to-toe bloodletting currently unfolding in Soledar and Bakhmut, talk to Ukrainians and, far from playing down what is happening in these battle zones, they will tell you unreservedly that everywhere is a frontline in this war. During previous visits to Kyiv, I’ve often been taken aback by the way life away from the front goes on with almost shocking regularity.

But this, as I’ve observed in other wars over many years across the world, is often the way of things – a discomfiting juxtaposition of the normal and chaotically abnormal.

Nowhere in Ukraine is truly removed from the impact of the war, and the capital Kyiv – especially in recent weeks – is no exception, having borne the brunt of Russian drone and missile strikes that have targeted the civilian infrastructure. This has left Kyiv’s citizens, like many across the country, with power blackouts and periods without water or heating in the midst of this frigid winter cold.

If Russia’s intention has been to break the will of the Ukrainian people, then I see very few signs of that. In fact, the opposite is true, with Russia’s missile onslaught on Kyiv serving only to reinforce solidarity among its citizens as it has in other towns and cities.

Everything that Russia throws at Ukraine only serves to solidify this country’s identity and sense of nationhood. As far as Ukrainians are concerned, every facet of life is a frontline since Russia invaded almost a year ago now. Their refusal to be cowed or beaten is evident at every turn. “Blow it up or knock it down and we will rebuild”, is the prevailing mindset here.

Only a few days ago, I revisited the district of Vinogradar in Kyiv where last March, shortly after the Russian invasion, their advancing forces shelled this suburb of Kyiv. Where once stood gutted, burnt-out apartment blocks, today they have been totally rebuilt or repaired.

Repeat this across Kyiv and in some other towns and cities and it’s hard not to be impressed by the determination, let alone the logistical capacity to undertake such work in a country still in the midst of war.

That such a response acts as a collective morale and psychological boost should not be underestimated. At every turn, adaptability and defiance is the overriding impression any visitor to Ukraine encounters right now.

Across Kyiv and elsewhere are resilience centres where people can stay warm and recharge mobile phones. Neighbourhood donors and volunteers, meanwhile, stack lifts with food and drink supplies for anyone trapped during power cuts. In a city like Kyiv where many citizens live in high-rise blocks and through age or health issues find themselves unable to climb sometimes up to 20 storeys, and with emergency services under pressure, such small details can be a lifesaver. Few things, it seems, are too small or insignificant to go unattended while priorities are almost always clear.

Only the other day, I spoke with volunteers who now help run a rehabilitation centre for war-wounded soldiers in the city of Irpin which was occupied in the early days following Russia’s invasion.

AS casualty numbers grow and the medical infrastructure comes under tremendous pressure, such additional support provided by such centres is invaluable and points to Ukraine’s realisation that even were this war to end tomorrow the needs of those who have given so much are already recognised in the longer term.

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Put quite simply, neither popular resolve nor the functioning of the state has been shattered by Russia’s kamikaze drones, missiles and shells.

Ukraine has already won moral and real victories. Entire towns in the east and cities in the south like Mariupol have been razed to the ground but the principles of freedom, self-government and identity for which Ukrainians are fighting remain as precious as ever.

Ever since Russia’s invasion, tens of thousands of Ukrainians have died and millions have been turned into refugees. Almost one-sixth of Ukraine’s territory remains under Russian occupation, but if Ukrainians have their way, all this will be turned around. For almost a year now the people of this country have been an example to the world of fortitude. Returning again, I’m heartened to see that, far from being diminished, that fortitude is in fact stronger than ever.

This war is not over, but one day, like all wars, it will be. Only then will its full history be told, but on looking back, Ukrainians can be proud of how they stood firm when their freedom was threatened. For now, though, everywhere remains a frontline for the foreseeable future.