DONETSK, Ukraine


After the bombs, the fur coats. After the air raids, the air kisses. After six months of war, even the fighters attending an opening night at the Donetsk theatre traded in weapons for a rare moment of refinement.

The steps of the Donetsk National Academic Ukrainian Musical and Drama Theatre, empty for months, rang out over the weekend as 700 well-heeled theatregoers rushed up to enjoy a long-delayed debut to the season.

But despite the clear excitement on the opening night of Nikolai Gogol’s “Marriage”, the presence of Ukraine’s civil war was unmistakable. The theatre entrance was adorned with a sign: “No weapons inside”. Five separatist rebels who attended the performance complied, arriving without their trusted Kalashnikov rifles, yet still dressed in combat fatigues. But for others, it was a chance to don their Sunday best - girls in dresses and stockings, men in button-down shirts and some in suits, ladies in their finest frocks, perfume wafting into the air. Friends kept apart by the fighting greeted one another and caught up, while a pre-performance murmur rose up through the grand hallway to the imposing crystal chandelier above.