Ilyas Verdiev’s apartment in Kyiv is usually at its peak at this time of year.
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Anyone who has ever spent Christmas in the company of young children understands the irrepressible joy that the holiday season brings.
So it was in Verdiev’s central apartment 12 months ago.
Not so now. Ilyas didn’t bother with a Christmas tree this year. It is useless, his wife and two young sons continue to take refuge in Poland, where they fled shortly after the Russian invasion of February 24.
According to the United Nations, nearly 8 million Ukrainians have taken refuge in Europe since the start of the war.
And while the computer scientist has occasionally shared weekends with his family in the relative safety of Lviv, western Ukraine, the war has shattered a once-shared life.
Due to a government directive prohibiting men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country, Ilyas – and millions like him – will spend this Christmas alone in a city suffering huge power losses and further bombardment from the skies. .
To find his family, Ilyas first had to obtain a temporary pass to leave the country. Then he would have to find his way to the border, through a dark country scared of war.
From the makers of Sky News’ award-winning StoryCast, Ukraine War Diaries is a weekly podcast that follows those living on Europe’s new frontline and those who have escaped it.
Producer: Robert Mulhern
Digital Promotion and Additional Writing: David Chipakupaku