Vladimir sent his family to safety out of Ukraine and joint Territorial Defense unit of Kyiv. He hopes that heavy fighting will stop in May, the war will end in a few months and the city will finally return to peaceful life. We talked about survival in Kiev during the hardest time.
First days of war
“The first days, of course, were the most stressful. We have woken up and found out that all the country attacked with rockets and there’s not a single peaceful place. We could not believe that Belarus let Russian troops through and they entered the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Subversive groups arrived, military vehicles rode around our area. Naturally, affects the psyche of people, especially women, “says Vladimir.
Each day several air raids forced people to hide in bomb shelters. There were deaths, there was destruction as a result of shelling in some areas of the city – Troieshchyna, Darnice, Svyatoshino. City administration recommended to hide in bomb shelters regardless of where you are and whether you are at direct risk.
However, shelters were too few often too far from people’s homes. Luckily Vladimir’s family could use a basement of the school just nest to their home. It was warm enough and had had basic amenities such as electricity, water, toilet and emergency exits. In such a refuge.
“It was quiet; you could relax, sleep and stop thinking, “says Vladimir.
Many people hid in the basements of their homes. Just imagine how many people should hide in a big city! Many basements were closed and not adapted for these purposes; even those who were open did not provide sufficient protection – there were cases in different cities and villages when people died in the basements of destroyed houses.
“I heard that in Borodyanka and not only there, people in the basements of collapsed buildings died because shelling continued and rescue team could not clear blockage in time” – says Vladimir.
Nevertheless, he thinks that during shelling even such shelters are safer then apartments or open spaces, because, as a rule, building are only partially damaged and rarely completely collapse which closes basements exits. “Our relatives live in a multi-storey house in the suburbs which suffered damage from shell hits. Nevertheless, despite that, the house withstood. So, its basement was safer than its apartments”, – Vladimir.
Media told that military vehicles go to Kiev in long columns, that active fighting could start in the city. That caused panic among people, they tried to leave the city, and there were a lot of refugees.
Vladimir’s family thought about evacuation too though it wasn’t an easy decision – to leave their home and loved ones. Of course, difficult women and children had to leave but it was difficult because of great number of such refugees in the first days. Even after 2 weeks from the beginning of the invasion of Russia, Vladimir hardly managed to put his wife and daughter on a evacuation train. The train has come from the East where fighting was taking place, it was already overcrowded. Vladimir’s wife and daughter had to travel in a cold vestibule of the car crammed with people.
Now they are in France and want to return as soon as the situation in the country became more or less stable. Some people with cars helped the others to get to safer areas of the country and did it for free while the others tried cash in on other people’s problems. Thus, family acquaintances had to pay some $ 200 (40 times more expensive than before the war) to the guy who driven them in the other region.
War and life in Kiev
Vladimir believes the peace can be established in a few months.
“I think intense fighting will end somewhere in the middle of May. For some time, the sluggish fighting will last, as it had been in the Donbas. Most people believe that the fighting will last for about three months, I believe that they will last about half a year,” he says.
Life in the city is still far from normal. Urban transport slowly renews its work. Subway trains ran for only once in two hours, now – once in half an hour. There are less and less roadblocks, so car rides became noticeably easier. The first days were huge queues in some stores residential areas, although supermarkets in remote areas were easily accessible. Pharmacies which were mostly closed start to work. Some stores offer much less products then before while the other don’t. Prices for some products even fell. For example, red perch can in the local Velmart costs 3 dollars per kilogram, before the war it was 5 dollars per kilogram.
Kiev Territorial Defense
Vladimir joined local Territorial Defenseand even filed a contract.
“They registered me, my data was recorded in the database. Many people joined Territorial Defenseand signed contracts. I see that there are a lot of active guys. When the Motherland is in danger, many people of various ages – from high school students to the elderly people – offered their assistance to Territorial Defense and took part in fortification work, checkpoint duty, camouflage nets manufacture etc., – he says. Vladimir is the oldest member of local unit of Territorial Defense, in a month he will be 70.
Possible awards and benefits for his job is not miportant for him; he already has some as a liquidator of Chernobyl disaster.
By now the hot time for his unit is over, they much less work than before. Vladimir has some free time and since he seeks to be of service to the city, he engaged in the delivery of humanitarian aid.
“Now I already think that it may make sense to take my contract back. It seems that life is coming back to normal. I hope my contract won’t be needed. If it is necessary, I will find use for myself in Territorial Defenseeven without any contract, ” he says.