Universytet Metro Station in Kiev serves as a bomb shelter for several dozen people. Sisters Daria and Catherine have been living here since the beginning of the war. We talked in a small store near the station – the only one in the district that still works so that the inhabitants of the station can drink coffee or buy products.
Many of those who lived in the subway during first weeks have already went to their homes. Daria and Catherine almost did not come out of the subway for the first days, now they just spend nights here. When the whole situation calm down they will finally return to normal life.
Underground metro stations are the safest places in the city. Authorities operatively published a special map of city bomb shelters, but it wasn’t of great help. Most of shelters were just houses basements and in fact they didn’t work just because persons who should be responsible for building the often run away from the city and didn’t give basements keys to someone else. Daria and Catherine tried to find a shelter nearly, but all basements in the area were closed. Underground parking in their house was another option, but it was so cold and damp that the children of those who hid there cached a chill after a couple of nights.
Subway was no better in the beginning.
“We did not know how things will turn and how it will be. We dressed up with warm clothes and sleeping pads with us. Who could imagine it would be so cold in the subway?” says Daria. Sleeping pads proved to be of little use on stone floor of underground station, sisters couldn’t normally sleep on them. Draft from the tunnel and dampness made this even worse.
To leave or not to leave?
On the second day one of their neighbors run from the city, leaving the girls their plaid and a blanket, so the next night was a little bit comfortable. Sisters themselves are not going to leave the city, although they have the opportunity.
“Who we will be in Europe? We decided to stay here as long as our house is not ruined. Of course, we are shocked with all this. And we were told that the city is surrounded and it’s time to leave. They just panic indeed, but when they constantly tell that, you start thinking – maybe you do something wrong? Maybe you really should leave? Once I did not sleep all night, I thought about it” says Catherine.
Her friend in Italy proposed to meet them at the border, take to Italy and provide a place to live. But sisters decided that they would leave only with their parents, who wanted to stay in their home as long a possible. So, migration was an option for real emergency when it became clear that Kyiv could really be surrounded.
In addition, they did not want to live at the expense of charitable organizations whose assistance is necessary for those who have lost their housing and really can not remain in the country. Those who left it because they just have nowhere to place live anymore really need help, not those who can stay here, sisters say. Those are real refugees, but there are also people who still can live and make a life for themselves in their own country.
Life in metro
A few days later, the volunteers brought warm covers and styrofoam plates, which were much better warn insulation, so people could more or less comfortably sleep on the cold stone floor. Later they even began to feed those who lived in the subway. Those who lived nearby once a few days went to their homes to tale a bath, wash things, change clothes.
As this station didn’t work at this time, subway personnel provided a train to sleep so people could spend nights on the seats in the wagons, not on the stone floor.
Few days ago people started to receive humanitarian aid from Poland, each was provides with a package with pate, croissants, waffles, meat. Many people lost their jobs and couldn’t buy food, so that aid was really helpful.
Some metro inhabitants are now working, but usually their work is related volunteer organizations. People don’t tell about their jobs, everyone tries to tell as little as possible about themselves preferring to talk about something else. Mostly they discuss news. Fortunately, there is free Wi-Fi in the subway and it helps to occupy themselves with news and social networks.
In general, people are calm, although, of course, some are quite nervous and even panic because of current situation. There were few alarmists since the beginning; all of them left the station soon. Those who began to scream or somehow spread panic are reported to the police, policemen don’t allow them to stay.
Sisters hope that Ukraine will get all its territories back. This also applies to the Crimea, although such a process will take time.
“Crimea is a serious topic. I support authorities’ proposition to give 15 years for settling this issue. Of course, it is not necessary to kid himself with hopes that everyone in the Crimea wants to go back to Ukraine. As for the rest of the territories, we are ready to hold out and help the army. We have sent our money to the army, we want the whole territory of Ukraine to be returned, and all that was destroyed to be rebuilt. This is our territory, why should we give it up? Everyone thinks so,” said Catherine.
They think they can help at least by moral support to those who need it. It is not surprising that many, including the people abroad, are nervous because of what is happening. Sometimes a calm talk is needed to calm down people. Even such simple things can help, sisters believe.