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Sleepless in Kyiv: In wartime capital, the stress of long fight weighs … – Los Angeles Times

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In some cultures, people greet one another by asking: “Have you eaten?” In Ukraine’s wartime capital, the question is more likely to be a wry, “Getting any sleep?”
More than 16 months after Russia launched its full-scale invasion, wailing air alerts routinely pierce the late-night and predawn hours, followed by the thunder of air defenses at work against incoming waves of missiles and drones in the skies over this city of some 3 million people.
In May and June, more than 200 Russian projectiles were shot down over the capital region, Ukrainian officials said. With the relentless pace of attacks, a full night of sound slumber is something to dream about — a rare treat, a treasure so often tantalizingly out of reach.
Kyiv, which resisted Russia’s early onslaught of ground forces, is hundreds of miles from the current front lines, and people here tend to depict their own forced wakefulness as a far lesser ordeal than the battlefield conditions faced by the country’s defenders or the perils of life in Russian-occupied cities and towns.
But the noisy alerts reflect real danger. On a Saturday in June, five people were killed when falling debris from an intercepted missile hit a multistory building in Kyiv, incinerating parts of two floors and sending chunks of masonry plummeting into stairwells and the courtyard.
Closer to the front lines, civilians as well as soldiers are at constant risk. On June 27, Russian Iskander missiles struck a popular restaurant in the eastern city of Kramatorsk at the dinner hour, resulting in the deaths of at least 13 people, including four children and a prominent young Ukrainian novelist. Dozens of others were injured.
“You don’t want to dwell on it all the time, the possibility of a missile coming for you,” said Larisa Lapshina, a 65-year-old Kyiv resident. “But you’d be crazy not to worry about it. And when you worry about it, you can’t sleep.”
::
Sleep deprivation, mental health experts say, is both cause and consequence of long-term stress, to be taken seriously in either event. Traditionally, however, Ukraine is not a place where psychological well-being is openly discussed.
“People here tend to think they should just be able to cope on their own,” said Alyona Gerasimova, a public health project director in Ukraine for the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Seeking to dispel lingering stigma associated with mental health support, the government has put a premium on community-based initiatives to promote emotional resilience.
World & Nation
Even far from Ukraine’s front lines, military funerals set off waves of mourning. ‘You can’t see an end to it,’ one chaplain says as the war drags on.

For those in certain professions, stress is a way of life, even if carefully hidden behind a calm facade.
Oleksandr Ratiev, a shift commander at a firefighting and emergency services base in northwest Kyiv, said that after one recent predawn strike, a frightened family realized that part of a downed drone had crash-landed on their roof.
“Everyone was on the street in their nightclothes, and everyone was scared — they were afraid the warhead would explode,” Ratiev said. “You have to be able to look them in the eye, calmly, and tell them it’s going to be OK.”
His crew of seven swiftly assessed the damage, summoned the bomb squad and purposefully distracted the couple’s two boys, about 4 and 8, by showing off their trucks and gear. The smoldering wreckage was safely removed.
When he goes home to his own family — a wife and two children, one of them 10 and the other an infant — Ratiev, a first responder for a dozen years, doesn’t like to talk about whatever danger or tragedy he has just encountered. At most, he might relate some happy ending elliptically, without dwelling on the harrowing circumstances preceding it.
“I don’t want to bring the war home to them,” he said.
::
For everyday stress, everyone has their own personal coping mechanism: yoga, late-night snacks, walks in one of the city’s many green parks, long cafe conversations about anything except the war.
For some, there’s dancing.
Before the war, Kyiv’s club district was a magnet for revelers and ravers from across Europe. Now it is reassessing its place and identity, said music entrepreneur Harry Pledov.
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With the shocking mutiny by Russia’s Wagner mercenaries put down for now, Moscow and Kyiv both work to calculate where their war goes from here.

“Some people like loud music to relax and express their emotions on the dance floor,” Pledov said as a thumping electronic soundtrack throbbed in the background. Off-duty soldiers are a particularly enthusiastic clientele, he said.
Clubbing was a no-go earlier in the war, Pledov said — “it felt too strange to do anything fun” — but over the months it has made a comeback, with more of an emphasis on fostering community togetherness and donations to the armed forces and war-related charities.
Because overnight curfew hours and predawn air alerts coincide with what were once prime club hours, the dancing commences about 6 p.m., when the summer sun is still bright.
“Night is day now, and day is night,” Pledov said.
Across the Dnipro River and at the other end of the generational spectrum, weekend evenings see an outdoor gathering of Ukrainian seniors dancing to oldies, a tradition that predates the war by decades. In winter, the dipping and twirling take place inside a spacious downtown Metro station; in the summer, the elders take over a tree-shaded park pavilion.
To the strains of vintage pop tunes or traditional music — sometimes live, sometimes recorded — romance sometimes blooms among those old enough to remember past wars and hardship.
“It was fate that we found each other here,” said Mykhailo Yahol, a dapper 85-year-old, beaming at his 70-year-old girlfriend, Marysia Hornishevska, who nodded her snowy head in assent. Both are widowed; they met five years ago in this park, at a dance evening like this one.
“When I hear bombs falling down on the city, I feel dizzy,” said Yahol, who was a toddler when Kyiv came under Nazi occupation during World War II. “You don’t forget about the war when you’re here, dancing, but you’re distracted. For a bit, at least.”
::
From inside their 11th-floor apartment, when an enormous boom reverberated shortly before 3 a.m., Elena Stzelchenko, 38, and Andriy Zhuravel, 40, didn’t realize at first that their own building had been hit.
“We thought maybe it was a factory nearby,” she said. “Then we smelled the smoke.”
Seven floors above them, missile debris tore through the outer walls of the high-rise in Kyiv’s western district of Solomianskyi, obliterating several flats and touching off a raging fire. It was days before the bodies of all five people killed in the strike were recovered.
With everyone jolted awake, Stzelchenko and Zhuravel checked on an elderly neighbor, who told them he was fine. They soothed their plump, imperious long-haired tabby and swept up the splintered drywall and ceiling tiles that littered the common entryway.
“I was already awake when it happened — I don’t even try any more to sleep at that hour,” said Yevhenii Kandyba, a 28-year-old lawyer who lives on the building’s seventh floor. “I do my sleeping after I finish with work.”
World & Nation
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s KGB years in East Germany offer a window into his crackdown on protests, war on Ukraine and yearning for empire.

Hours after the June 24 strike, he walked his beagle, Loki — “my small, scared friend” — down to the parking lot, waiting for emergency services at work there to let people check on their cars.
“Last night, I was happy I’d found a good parking spot!” he said. Now, even from a distance, he could see his red Mazda was covered in powdery dust, with a smashed windshield and an enormous dent.
In a city the size of Chicago, people can sometimes convince themselves that airborne catastrophe won’t find them. But sometimes, it does.
“You’re a little surprised when it’s your own building where this happens,” Kandyba said. “But on any night, you’re never surprised that somewhere in the city, something has gotten hit.”
::
It can be hard to get much sleep with a toddler in the house. That’s especially true for Ukrainian parents like Dmytro and Yulia Kravchenko, who leap to check on 18-month-old Mikhail whenever an air alert sounds.
At Kyiv’s sprawling, shaded city zoo, the little boy was wrapped in his father’s arms on a sunny Sunday as he stared first at the tiger in its outdoor enclosure, nearly hidden by shrubbery, then stretched out a hand toward snakes behind the glass in the dimly lit reptile house.
“This is all we want, for him to be happy and learning,” said Kravchenko, 37. “And safe.”
The zoo has remained open throughout months of war, taking in animals displaced by fighting elsewhere. When Russian airstrikes on Kyiv repeatedly knocked out the power over the winter, zoo officials crowdfunded fuel for a wood stove that kept the gorilla warm.
During Russian bombing, the zoo has been hit repeatedly by shrapnel, said zoo director Kyrylo Trantin. A big piece of jagged metal crashed onto the grounds during a concerted round of strikes in May, but lodged in a chestnut tree, not close to any animal enclosure, he said.
Trantin is particularly proud of Horace, the Asian elephant, who was frightened at first by air alarms, but now knows to lumber quickly into his enclosure whenever one sounds.
World & Nation
Russian private military contractor Wagner is busy boosting its brand as its fighters try to subdue Ukraine, trading secrecy for war propaganda movies.

“Horace is a national hero!” said Trantin, 51, who concedes that his Horace-related fandom stems in part from the fact that he got his start as an elephant keeper. When war stress gets to him, he likes to go and shovel elephant dung — it calms him down, he said.
“Our friends from all over the world are helping us,” he said. “We’ll never abandon this place, it’s too important for our morale, for our city.”
::
Kyiv’s annual book fair, the biggest in Ukraine, is held in a complex known as the Arsenal, built as a weapons depot, now a cavernous arts-event space. That history resonates with many in attendance.
The gathering had to be canceled last year, in the early months of war, but it was revived in June, with author readings and panel discussions and overflowing book booths that drew thousands of visitors — including President Volodymyr Zelensky, who dropped in with his wife, Olena.
Attendees spoke proudly of the importance of events like this one taking place, whether despite the war or because of it.
“For us, it’s a battle on the cultural front,” said Anastasia Arseniuk, a 22-year-old student at Kyiv University.
Newly published works showcased at the festival included the war diaries, posthumously published, of a well-known poet and children’s author, Volodymyr Vakulenko, who was abducted last year during Russia’s occupation of the eastern city of Izyum and surrounding villages.

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In November, his remains were unearthed in a mass grave left behind by the Russians. Later, so was his diary, and a well-known young Ukrainian novelist and poet named Victoria Amelina was instrumental in bringing it to publication, an occasion celebrated at the fair.
Only days later, the literary community shuddered to learn that Amelina, 37, who in recent months had put aside fiction to turn her attention to documenting war crimes, was among those gravely hurt in the June 27 missile strike on the pizza restaurant in Kramatorsk. On Saturday, she died of her injuries, leaving behind a young son.
World & Nation
The long fight for Bakhmut is backed by consumer tech — messaging apps, teleconferencing services, cloud-synced mapping software and drones.

In an eerily prescient poem, Amelina had written of the capriciousness of the threat from the skies: “An air raid across the country / each time like going to everyone’s execution / yet they aim at only one.”

Even before Amelina’s death, Valeriya Skoryk, a 16-year-old high school student volunteering as a guide at the book fair, said it was crucial not to let numbness take hold in the face of wartime loss and fear.
“Sometimes when I hear air-alert sirens, I don’t even react,” she said. “But then I say to myself, ‘I’m alive. I’m still alive.’ And so are people I love. That’s a reason to keep going.”
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Laura King is a Washington, D.C.-based reporter for the Los Angeles Times. A member of the Foreign/National staff, she primarily covers foreign affairs. She previously served as bureau chief in Jerusalem, Kabul and Cairo.
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"Fight Club" author Chuck Palahniuk on new novel "Not Forever, But … – CBS News

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Man Who Lost Ear In 'No-Rule Fight Club' Thinks He Is 'Lucky' – News18

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Curated By: Buzz Staff
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Last Updated: November 21, 2023, 15:32 IST
Delhi, India
The winner of this no-rule game receives Rs 2 lakh. (Photo Credits: YouTube)
A recent Channel 4 documentary titled “UNTOLD: The Secret World of Fight Clubs" delves into the shocking and underground trend of bare-knuckle fighting prevalent across the UK. The documentary exposes the gritty reality of these no-rule brawls, featuring participants like Alex Etherington, who not only took part in such a brutal event but also lost his ear in the process. Etherington, who now keeps his detached ear in a jar, shares his firsthand experience, providing insight into the world of these unrestricted fighting rings.
In an underground fight club documentary by Channel 4 titled “UNTOLD: The Secret World of Fight Clubs" a shocking trend of bare-knuckle fighting across the UK was exposed. The documentary reveals the gritty reality of these no-rule brawls. Among the participants was Alex Etherington, who took part in this disturbing trend fight, and lost his ear. He now keeps his detached ear in a jar. Etherington recounted his experience with these unrestricted fighting rings.
Speaking to the Sun, Alex said, “I felt lucky to get on King Of The Streets. It’s quite sought after. I only got on it because my friend vouched for me. It got half a million views on YouTube and I got around 7,000 followers on Instagram overnight. I didn’t know what was going to happen because it was my first No Rules fight. I couldn’t really have a game-plan really. I didn’t know what to expect."

Alex Etherington faced Bachir ‘Bash’ Fakhouri in the fight and recalling the fight, he said, “He was desperate for a win as he’d come off a few losses. Ten seconds in, he bit my ear off. I didn’t know it had come off at first. Blood was trickling down my face. He wouldn’t let go of my hair. I ended up getting whiplash from it. He was going for my eyes." Eye gouging is permitted during the fights, although according to Alex, they’re typically halted before the pressure causes any harm.
Alex went to the hospital after the fight where doctors informed him that his torn ear couldn’t be reattached as “it wasn’t a clean cut. There was a risk of infections too, so there was no chance. It’s quite a big chunk, about the width of your pinkie finger." Despite the severe injury, the fighter expressed that it doesn’t bother him. Upon returning home, Alex showed his girlfriend, Fizza Khan, the torn ear, who insisted he keep it. Interestingly, Alex decided to store his piece of ear in a jar filled with an alcohol solution, following advice from someone and placed it in the kitchen on a shelf.
Meanwhile, Alex Etherington refrains from disclosing his fight earnings but the estimated payouts are around £2,000 (approximately Rs 2 lakh). He clarified that fighters receive compensation only when the win and highlighted that the amount isn’t enough to become a full time fighter. For Alex, engaging in this activity wasn’t about establishing a career but rather fulfilling a bucket list wish. He expressed satisfaction due to lack of rules and limitations, describing the experience as a taste of genuine freedom that left him excited for weeks after the fight.

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Monty Williams rips Pistons for lack of 'fight' during skid – ESPN

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Detroit Pistons coach Monty Williams called out his team for its lack of “fight” after another blowout loss, saying his players are not honoring “the organization and the jersey.”
Williams delivered a brief but passionate statement to reporters Monday night after Detroit’s 126-107 home loss to the Washington Wizards in a matchup of the NBA’s two worst teams.
It was the fourteenth consecutive loss for the Pistons (2-15), who now own the NBA’s worst record and have not won a game in a month. The lowly Wizards (3-14), who had not won since Nov. 8, shot 51% from the floor and had seven scorers in double figures against the Pistons, who have lost three of their past four games by a least 19.
“That wasn’t fight on the floor,” Williams said. “That wasn’t Pistons basketball by any stretch of the imagination. That’s what this is — we have to have people that honor the organization and the jersey by competing at a high level every night.
“I’m not talking about execution, just competing. That wasn’t it, and that’s on me.”
In a postgame media session that lasted only one minute, Williams opened by saying he was “very” disappointed with the loss and described the Pistons’ overall spirit in the game as “poor.”
Williams told reporters before the game that the Pistons held a players-only meeting Friday, saying that “accountability” was a key talking point and that he loves working with the young roster.
But Williams was much harsher in his tone after the loss.
“It’s just a level of growing up on this team, maturity, understanding what game-plan discipline is — all the stuff we talk about all the time,” he said. “It’s enough talking.”
Third-year forward Isaiah Livers said he agreed with Williams’ assessment.
“There are a lot of little things we can talk about, but we just didn’t play hard,” Livers said. “Every team has roles, and it feels like none of us are playing our roles to the best of our abilities.”
Star guard Cade Cunningham, who admitted last week that the Pistons are “bad” in a candid assessment of the team, told the Detroit Free Press that he and his teammates are making mistakes because they are “not physical enough or not aggressive enough.”
“We all wanna win really bad,” Cunningham told the Free Press. “Everybody’s doing it out of the spirit of that — wanting to win, wanting to do what’s best for the team.
“I think we need more aggressive mess ups. Where we’re struggling right now is slip ups where we’re not physical enough or not aggressive enough. That’s what we need to lean towards instead of trying not to press.”
The 14-game losing streak ties the second-longest in Pistons franchise history, and their schedule does not get easier in the short term. After Wednesday’s home game against the Lakers (10-8), the Pistons travel to New York the next day to face the Knicks (9-7) before returning home Saturday to host the Cavaliers (9-8).
If they cannot win one of those games, the Pistons will be in danger of approaching the longest skid in their history — a 21-game losing streak that bridged the 1979-80 and 1980-81 seasons.
“We play great stretches, and then we’ve had crazy bad stretches where we dig ourselves in too deep of a hole,” Cunningham told the Free Press. “That’s it right there — it’s just holding each other accountable and when we do feel it start to slip, having the mental stamina to stay together, stay connected.”

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