The Ukrainian ski resort of Bukovel has become a luxurious refuge against bombs, writes Le Monde iROZHLAS

Since the outbreak of the war, this luxury ski resort, far from the bombardments, has had a very special clientele. Wealthy Ukrainians, whose towns have turned into battlefields, stay here, seeking their place in the fight against the Russian invasion. The French daily Le Monde carried a report on the seaside resort of Bukovel, in western Ukraine, where the clashes are least apparent.




Bukovel

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People hide from bombs, for example, in the Bukovel ski resort in Ivano-Frankivsk | Source: Profimedia

It was a magical season, there was a lot of snow, the sun was shining and the atmosphere of endless parties reigned. However, there was only one conversation about cable cars, discos and hot tubs, the risk of war and the invasion of Russian troops. In Bukovel, a famous ski resort in the Ukrainian Carpathians, no one believed in it so much this winter.


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Diana, 24, works at the reception of the Hvoya Hotel, one of around 100 local luxury hotels. On Wednesday, February 23, she went snowboarding after work, the slopes are always open and lit until midnight. The next day, at dawn, the crowd stormed, panic set in, suitcases opened and closed, people piled in, hastily threw room keys at reception, and there was only one message from all the phones: the war had begun.

Immediately, all 250 rooms were empty; parking, streets and all other hotels turned out the same. There was a deep silence everywhere. The hotel staff checked the reservations, which disappeared one by one, so they finally sat in the lobby seats and cried, with a fabulous view of the snow-capped mountains.

Safe return

But in a few days everything is different, Porsche and BMW stand here in columns. Those who escaped quickly returned. On the weekend of March 5, there are five thousand cars, most of them with kyiv license plates. How do you label these people? Tourists? Shelters? “Possibly out of place,” suggests a young couple of real estate agents.

So far they have only skied once in Bukovel, preferring to go to Austria or France. Friends brought them here with the idea of ​​coming here, and other acquaintances from kyiv have already met here. “The real rich are long gone and I don’t see myself in a refugee camp in Poland,” the woman says.

At the hotel reception, Diana assures the guest that she won’t shut up and tries to sound soothing. He also calls her husband, who is a doctor in bombed-out Kharkov. He tells her about eleven raped women, only five of whom survived. “We’re lucky,” Diana says, before adding that she’s ashamed of it.

Creation of the center

The history of Bukovel is a reflection of part of Ukrainian history. Before the year 2000, it was a forgotten mountainous area dotted with a few trees, where a traveling shop came once a week. In Soviet times, it was a hunting ground for the communist elite. In 2003, however, the place began to transform into a seaside resort following those to the west, creating 75 kilometers of tracks and three artificial lakes.


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Cable cars are not working, loudspeakers provide instructions and regulations on nighttime curfews and alcohol bans. Swimming pools and saunas remain open in some hotels, but they are still empty. Going there would be “unpatriotic”, says one woman as she heads to the pharmacy, where she hopes to get sedatives. They were sold the day before.

Since the beginning of the war, the representatives of the major hotels have met every morning for a joint crisis meeting. Local hotels have sent funds to the Ministry of Defence, “larger than some European countries”, explains one of the hoteliers. According to him, a “wave of patriotism” has also risen in Bukovel, and volunteers are coming to the cultural center.

“The shock of the first three days has faded. But now we will have to employ these people in one way or another, especially those who are used to being in a lap all the time, ”adds the hotelier and admits that he does not really know what to give them as work.

As in other communes behind the front, the production of camouflage nets was one of the first workshops launched. She employs five or six women, including a successful financial advisor who can’t stop crying. “I would like to join the armed defence. I feel so useless. Please,” the 59-year-old says.

Hide business people

Among the hosts are many successful entrepreneurs and managers. Dmytryj Borodin headed the Grand Inflatable Boats inflatable boat factory in Kharkov. Most of the emails he receives are encouraging. When partners ask them how they can help, but don’t know what to answer.


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There are also those who ask when the factory will reopen. “I don’t think some people understand us yet,” Borodin says. The hardware warehouse of his wife Valentyna’s cosmetics company is bombed, he has no news of the state of his factory.

Borodin spontaneously started speaking Russian, as he is used to doing business in Kharkov, which is strongly linked to Moscow. After a while, however, he swore to himself that he would only speak Ukrainian, although he sometimes made a mistake. Most of the couple’s friends are from Russia, but they no longer call each other. “We asked very politely and calmly how they were doing. But now we don’t exist for them as if we were dead, and that’s the worst thing, thinks Valentina.

A hydrocarbon specialist lives in the next room. Although he says he feels guilty when he goes out for breakfast, he says he is helping Ukraine by continuing to work and paying $2,000 in taxes. (44,600 crowns – editor’s note) monthly. “By continuing to do business, I am most useful to my country. If I continue to be successful,” he adds.

The Bukovel tourist information center has a new use, they have created a branch for the payment of voluntary contributions for state defense. They accept all credit cards and a queue forms outside the door.

Ulla, a 30-year-old editor of Headway Media, reportedly described herself a few days ago as a “pacifist, cosmopolitan, and certainly not a nationalist”. His friends offered him asylum in Berlin and Barcelona. I do not want to leave. for the first time in my life, I am proud to be Ukrainian, Ulla said.

CTK

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