War is especially horrifying for those civilians living around and between and soldiers deployed on ground zero of the conflict. Heck, lucky are those who saw an invasion coming and had the luxury to flee, but what happens to those who didn’t? For those who had to stay because they had no choice but to defend their homeland?

Drawing an example to the most recent wartime in this generation: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which the former continually insists the attack a “special military operation,” have disrupted the overall everyday life of Ukrainians, from newborn babies robbed with parents to aging elders who lost their children amid the chaos. As the world watched the once thriving city of Kyiv burn in shambles, the people living at the very heart of the conflict had adjusted to their new environment, adapted to their terrifying new routine, such as having to always be on alert and settled into their new rhythm to go on with their lives despite losing so much. Ukrainians have had to recalibrate their “every day” accordingly to the current war situation, whether monthly or weekly—hourly, even. And this has also been the case for the past generations tangled in wartime, and just like the generations that come before (and after), people adapt, no matter how fierce a war could be.

To survive a conflict, one must remember to look out for their barest needs, including food, water, clothing, sleep, shelter, and social connection for civilians. This also applies to combat personnel who relentlessly fight tooth and nail on the front and boost and maintain morale among troops, as it could affect the tide and outcome of both the defensive and offensive efforts.

In her 2014 essay, The every day as Involved in War, historian Tammy M. Proctor examines the juxtaposing reality of everyone involved in a war, highlighting “five important qualities that shape every day.” Her context, however, tackles life in the First World War, discussing how waiting, staying connected, food and shelter, managing fear, and camaraderie affect the new routine of those involved in an armed conflict. Nevertheless, these five qualities Proctor mentioned also apply even in today’s generation of war as she emphasized that sustaining the most basic needs of humans is what makes one survive in wartime.

Waiting is Dreadful

Back then, waiting meant writing letters and recounting unfortunate events in journals, which may still hold today for people caught up in the middle of gun fires and hiding away from unpredictable bombardments, even with the luxury of advanced devices the current generation has today.

Ukrainians hide in subway station amid ongoing war
Residents of Kyiv hid in the subway during the Russian rocket attack on Ukraine on December 16, 2022. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

In the earlier weeks of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainians experienced a widespread interruption as Russian forces targeted their communication and internet infrastructures to deprive the people of contacting and reporting the attack. When it was restored, false claims that the “war is a hoax” began circulating online, confusing the international community on whether or not Moscow attacked Kyiv. Unstable communication lines and outsiders not believing that a war had broken out were some factors that made Ukrainians have to wait in fear. For the first 48 hours, people sought shelter in subway stations, large sturdy basements, and purpose-built bunkers while Russia bombarded the city. With a restrictive internet connection, civilians resort to entertaining themselves with what they have, some to finding comfort in others since most had fled in a hurry and had no time to pack properly. Despite disturbing signs and warnings received early on, many didn’t believe the war would start, and when it did, many Ukrainians were left baffled and unprepared—leaving them to wait in darkness for a while.

Another kind of waiting has emerged for the Ukraine battlefield, which is waiting for the war to end. It’s been nearly a year since the invasion took place and any sight of peace between the two warring nations remains uncertain. As diplomats strive to strike peace deals between Russia and Ukraine, people caught in between have settled into their new daily normal. Kyiv’s once bustling streets and festive atmosphere have been replaced with hushed conversations inside a few remaining open establishments. And when winter came, Ukrainian troops fought in the cold, damp streets as civilians sought warmth in buildings with generators—waiting for the war to end meant adapting to a new routine with one eye open, even for those not directly involved in a combat role, and finding ways to kill time.

Staying Connected Boosts Morale

Staying connected is a huge morale boost, especially for soldiers on the front. Receiving phone calls, messages, and letters from loved ones at home makes the dreadful fighting and waiting worthwhile. Keeping in touch with people at home and away from the warring land brings comfort to those trying to live within the confines of incredibly uncomfortable zones.