A Ukrainian woman describes the day her country was invaded by Russia.
āItās almost 5am here. I canāt sleep. It seems like no one is sleeping.
I have to believe thatā¦ I believe that we are strong and I have to be strong now. Iām going to be strong.āHalyna
[Sound of an air raid siren]
In the early hours of Thursday morning, Russia began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
[Clip of President Vladimir Putin announcing military action]
In a televised address Russian president Vladimir Putin announced what he called a āspecial military operationā. He urged Ukrainians to put down their weapons and go home.
Months of military build up, years of propaganda, failed attempts at diplomacy and reassurance finally came to a head.
Ukraineās airspace was closed to civilian flights. The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, declared martial law. And Kyiv, a vibrant capital of three million people, woke to the sound of distant explosions, car alarms, and air raid sirens.
āI donāt want to create a pretty picture of how brave I am and how awesome I am, how resilient I am in the face of danger. Because you know, Iām just one person and, you know, I have feelings and I have loved ones and I do hope theyāre okay.āHalyna
Halyna is a young Ukrainian woman. Weāre not using her real name at her request.
She lives in Kyiv and most of her family lives near the Ukrainian-Russian border.Ā
We first talked to her a few days ago and she was really chatty. She joked about how there were no subway stations to shelter in near her house. She laughed about her emergency grab bag.
āItās like one of those blog videosā¦ like āwhatās in your bag?āā¦ I have a blood stopping kit, I have some change of clothes, change of socks, I have some instant ramen, I have some non perishable candy. I donāt believe I have some water, I have to pack some water there.āHalyna
And remarkable though it sounds, Tuesdayās news that Russia was sending troops into breakaway regions of Ukraine came almost as a comfort. Fear of the unknown had finally given way to some concrete reality.
āI feel greatā¦ I feel less stressed than just a couple of days back because you know, a couple of days back some people on the internet were saying that the Ukrainians were afraid of shadows, but now our shadows took some shape.āHalyna
That was then, though, and this is now. The pace at which things have escalated is staggering. And those shadows loom large. Russia is invading Halynaās homeland.
āThere is a heavy sense of foreboding in the air. There is definitely a storm on the horizon.āHalyna
Minutes before Russia launched its invasion on Thursday morning, Halyna was lying in bed in her apartment block in Kyiv.
She could feel something coming, but at that moment she was not thinking much about Kyiv. She was thinking of another place, a large city called Kharkiv near the Russian border.
āThey say the first target is going to be Kharkivā¦ The thing is, Iāve got to admit, Iāve never cared much for Kharkiv myself, you knowā¦ But still right now Iām laying here and I find myself having all these sentimental stupid feelings about Kharkiv. Because, if nothing else, Kharkiv is the city where my parents met for the first time. Kharkiv is a city where my eldest sister was bornā¦ And also, this is the most important part, Kharkiv is home for many, many good people.āHalyna
Just after recording that message, Halyna checked the news.
āOkay, so, Iāve just opened Twitter and it began. I feel chill[s].
I believe that weāre strong. I have to be strong now. Iām going to be strong.āHalyna
With the sounds of bombs in the distance, jumping at the noise of the railway near her flat, Halyna started making her way to her sisterās house.
And quickly reconsidered whether that was a good idea.
āI donāt think I should go to her now, be out in the open. I wonāt go back to my apartment either because my apartment is pretty high up there. I live in a tall building. So Iām just trying to figure out where I can go for now.āHalyna
Toing and froing.
āIām kind of weighing my chances, whether I have time to get to my sister or not. Because I canāt really call for a taxiā¦ Everything is booked and busy.āHalyna
Eventually Halyna took the Kyiv trolley bus, a transport system that has been in operation since before the Second World War.
āIām getting close to my sisterās housing building.āHalyna
She got to her sister.Ā
A journey that was both terrifying and strangely banal.
āThe whole thing is a bit surreal right now in Kiev, because you have people leaving the city, people trying to get to the nearest shelter, stuff like that, getting to their loved ones. But also trash cans are being emptied. The public transportation system is working.āHalyna
āThis is not in the infamous phrase, some far away country of which we know little. We have Ukrainian friends in this country, neighbours, co-workers. Ukraine is a country that for decades has enjoyed freedom and democracy and the right to choose its own destiny. We and the world cannot allow that freedom just to be snuffed out.āBoris Johnson
Boris Johnson said the UK and its allies would hobble the Russian economy with a massive package of financial sanctions. Poland is preparing a medical train to carry wounded Ukrainians to their hospitals.
Meanwhile, Halyna and her sister are getting ready to move again.
āWe are relocating to the nearest shelter. We are staying put in Kyiv right now in Kyiv because I donāt think we really have any other options. So yeah. But weāre together and weāre fine.āHalyna
There is still a lot of fight in Ukrainians like Halyna.Ā
She was there in 2014 when Ukraineās pro-Russia president was ousted at nearly every protest.
And her great grandfather died retaking Kyiv from the Nazis. Itās someone she has in mind at this darkest of hours.
āIāll try to stay safe, but if I have to defend Kyiv, Iāll do everything I canā¦ Iām gonna stay safe to the best of my ability. Donāt worry for me. Iām going to be fine.āHalyna
Todayās story was written by Xavier Greenwood and produced by Imy Harper.
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