Citizen journalism: My war story
For a couple of days, life in Kyiv had finally become nearly perfect for Anya. Then Russia invaded.
Before I tell my war story, I want to share some facts about the life I used to live.
My name is Anya. I was born in Pavlograd, a small town near Dnipro. I studied and lived in Dnipro for ten years. Now I live in Kyiv. Before, I had always thought that life in Kyiv was not for me. I had thought the pace of life would be too rapid, but I was wrong. When I moved here, I found I really enjoyed the pace of life and the independence and opportunities that came with it.
My boyfriend and I rent an apartment. We have two pets. I had finally found the job I was looking for. February 21, 2022, was my first day at work. I remember how excited I was, and how happy I was to start a new life. Of course, I had heard that there were threats of a Russian invasion, but I believed that it was just another means of manipulating Ukrainian politics.
Then, I was asked at work what my plans were in case of an invasion. I simply answered, "If that happens, I will think about it." I did not want to contemplate the possibility of a war starting.
February 23rd: the situation intensified. We decided that it was time to pack an emergency bag.
February 24th, 5:50 am: I woke up to a terrifying sound. It was the sound of a missile or fighter jet. I jumped out of bed and looked out the window. I heard the same booming sound. My boyfriend woke up and said that he had heard the same kind of sound at 4 am. And then, my friend called me at 6 am and told me, "Anya, get ready. Pack your documents and cash. Look for air-raid shelters (just in case). Odessa and Kharkiv are being attacked right now."
I started crying. I understood the war had started, but my mind didn't want to accept it. I called my brother, my parents, and my friends and told them to get ready (again, just in case). I was trying to calm down, but it was impossible. I kept crying as my mind rejected this new reality. To me, war is incomprehensible in the 21st century. How could it have happened? So we packed an emergency bag with all the things we needed for our pets. We were ready if there was an attack. We planned to go down to the basement of our apartment building.
February 25th: we didn't sleep that night. We were watching the news. We were reading every article in an attempt to try to understand what the hell was happening.
Early morning, 4 am: we heard the sound of an explosion. It was very loud. Then one more, even louder, and we saw a bright flash illuminating the entire sky. We understood that something had just been bombed near us, in our neighborhood. Later we learned that a Russian missile had gotten shot down. Pieces of the downed missile fell on the apartment building. We grabbed our pets and ran to the basement. Many of our neighbors ran down to the basement with us.
This is how we spent the following two nights. We made makeshift beds out of the pillows and blankets we had taken from our apartment. But it was very cold down there, and sleep was impossible.
After three nights, we decided to return to our apartment. Staying in the basement was torture. It was so cold.
For the rest of the month, we slept in the bathroom. Air raid sirens rang all the time. The bathroom was the only safe place in our apartment. In fact, we practically lived in the bathroom.
In that first week, we were under unimaginable stress. Yet we were heartened at the news of continuous Russian defeats.
Despite the deafening noises of the alarms and the explosions nearby, we were soon able to begin working remotely. There has been a nightly curfew all over Ukraine since the beginning of the invasion.
Since the start of the war, there has been a shortage of food in supermarkets. It was difficult to buy simple things like bread or meat, especially during those first days. Then, slowly, slowly, it was possible to buy the same products we used to buy before.
It has been more than 2 months since Putin decided to invade. With all this hell wrought upon my Motherland, it has united us. It has made us, Ukraine, a stronger nation. Our army is our hope. It is where our heroes serve. We donate money. We help with food and shelter. We work as a community to cover our army’s needs.
I'm very lucky that my family, my dearest and nearest, haven’t faced the Russians directly. Right now, we are safe, more or less, despite the fact that each Ukrainian holds a gaping hole in their heart. We believe we will be victorious and independent, unlike ever before.