Accounts from Ukraine – a family faces the Russian invasion

Editors note – in the coming days we’ll be running several of these. They are NOT proprietary and while people on the ground are in touch with us, the goal is to get as much information in the form of human accounts out as possible. Feel free to share, reports, republish, etc.

In a couple of days before the war, my family and I were feeling that something was about to happen, but we didn’t know what for sure. Therefore, it was agreed that in the event of a bombing, we would meet at the school where my mother is the principal for she wouldn’t allow herself to leave the school. That was our plan.

On the day when the aggressor country recognized the independence of the so-called “DPR” and “LPR”, we knew for sure that nothing good would come of it, and that same night my boyfriend and I packed our go bags, filled a full tank of our car and bought food for a few days. The only thing we were unable to buy on time was insulin for my boyfriend, because he is insulin dependent. We thought we would buy it next day… but the next day simply never came.

On February 24, at 5 in the morning, sound of explosions in Kyiv woke us up. We rushed to pick up our parents and then went to the school as agreed. My mother have been working as the principal of that school for just two years, this is her first “high” office, and she dedicates herself fully to the school. It was part of her everyday life. So when the war started, of course, we settled in the school.

We were realizing that other people will be coming to that school, but we did not expect that there would be SO MANY people. In general, there are one or two real safe havens in our neighborhood, others are just premises for emergencies – shelters, basements. If you do not understand the difference, the safe haven is a kind of premises designed for long-term stay of people, shelter – a regular basement unequipped for long term stay (without toilets and ventilation).

We decided to prepare our shelter to the best extend possible, we stocked all water, put the sports mats on the floor, prepared the chairs and first aid kits, made the passage to the real toilet, instead of just putting a bucket to be used as a toiled. That’s all we could do. On the evening of the 24th, people started coming to our school en masse. Everyone was scared and stressed. Some of them, who had animals, weren’t simply accepted anywhere. We quickly divided responsibilities among our family and three of my mother’s colleagues at school. My sister and I checked the documents and checked in everyone who came to our shelter, Mom took people downstairs and organized the whole “routine” – starting from charging the phone to food supplies, Dad guarded the entrance, and my boyfriend helped carrying everything. Also, two headmasters, two teachers of this school and the son of one of the headmasters, who is in the territorial defense, were helping us. So there were 9 ordinary people, 5 of whom were our family.

These days were very difficult and jittery. Our shelter is designed for 200 people, because there is no ventilation. But we decided to accept everyone who needs help. Women, men, with children, with any animals, the elderly. Our school accepted everyone when the neighboring schools were closed or the number of people was limited.

When the shelter was full to capacity, we placed people on the ground floor, and as soon as the sirens and explosions started all went down to the shelter, when it ended, everyone went up. Thus we lived for three days. We didn’t eat or sleep, there was no time for it. In just three days of full-scale war, we accepted about 1,500 people and up to 100 animals.

We tried to talk to all our “guests” and hear their needs, because people did not understand that we were neither a specialized organization for protection in wartime nor volunteers

who must provide water, food, blankets, mats, phone chargers, etc. We are ordinary people who are just as scared and came here because the principal, our mother, decided to open the school doors for shelter. And since we are a family, we need to be together at this time.

On the third day, there was a potential threat of terrorist sabotage. Frankly speaking, at that time I wanted get my whole family in the car and escape immediately, but no, we didn’t do that. It was very scary, but we confidently deterred armed strangers until the representatives of the territorial defense arrived. Just regular folks, female teachers, my father and I kept 4 armed men with guns so that they would not go down to the shelter. In addition to sleep deprivation and malnutrition, this was the maximum stress. We have never had such an experience in our lives, thank God everything went and ended well. In three days, our family and teachers became one team, which stands together and to the end for the sake of Ukraine and the Ukrainians.


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