KYIV, Ukraine — The wedding registration center in the heart of Kyiv was a whirlwind of romance and celebration, a reflection of the defiant optimism on display across the Ukrainian capital these days.
Some people were tying the knot on a summer Saturday, after the war delayed their plans. Others, like Larisa, 31, and Roman, 30, raced to wed, mindful of how quickly things can change.
“We decided that no matter what the situation in the future, we will always be together,” said Larisa, who like others interviewed did not give her full name for safety reasons. “Our family is sure that love always wins, and Ukraine will definitely win.”
Across Kyiv — a city where the future is far from clear but many yearn to find pleasure in the present — Ukrainians are trying to reclaim the rhythms and joys of daily life amid the vagaries, uncertainties and sorrows of war.
There may be no better place to feel the pulse of Kyiv in the summer than on the banks of the Dnipro River. Before the war, people kayaked and wake-boarded, music boomed from concerts and raves, crowds sunbathed or played sports. That riotous cacophony has not yet returned. But people are coming back.
Alexander Savchenko, a champion bodybuilder, was swimming on Saturday with his coach and his girlfriend, Valeria Baildalia, 27, all of them visiting from Odesa. Ms. Baildalia’s home is in Berdiansk, deep in the heart of the occupied south. She does not know when she will be able to return.
Valentina Shevchenko, 64, was leading a class in valeology, the science of healthy living through proper exercise and diet. She led a half-dozen devotees in dancing and twisting to a pop song. For several months in the spring, they were unable to meet because of the war. But they have now resumed their routine, with one change: They all wear blue and gold outfits, the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
Volodomyr, 79, said they end the class with the phrase: “Glory to Ukraine, health to all her people and thank you to our Western allies.”
On an island in the middle of the river, Petro, a 53-year-old former soldier and retired lawyer, stood on the sandy shores dressed in hip waders, a jar of fly larvae tucked into his pocket. He had come to fish for perch and carp, while also searching for peace of mind.
Six months ago, instead of a fishing rod, Petro carried a machine gun and prepared to defend his home as Russian forces bore down on Kyiv in the initial weeks of their invasion. More than four months since the Russians were forced to retreat from the city’s outskirts, Petro returned to his favorite fishing spot.
“It takes away all the tension from the war and all the negative thoughts,” he said, waiting for a bite. “I just want to switch off my mind. And if I catch a fish, I thank god.”