This all started with alarming messages back in mid-February. The international human rights organization where my friend works gathered its employees for a meeting, where it presented an evacuation plan in case of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. I refused to believe it, but the escalation of anxiety intensified. However, my brain really boiled only after a message from a classmate who advised to urgently leave or prepare: buy food and medicine, pack a bug-out bag and arrange a shelter in the basement. By the way, a classmate from Russia. Almost all of my classmates live there, because I graduated from school under the USSR. My parents leave to build BAM and spent fifteen years in Yakutia. In the early nineties, we returned to our homeland, to Ukraine, and the Union collapsed.
22.02.2022: “Paired digits are a lucky symbol”
This entry in my diary appeared under the influence of numerology. It is a very beautiful date. Social media feeds were full of wedding photos of friends and colleagues. Everyone wanted to register marriage on a special date. No one could have known that in just a couple of days, our happy life would collapse. And you will have to sit in basements or stand in endless lines for groceries, at ATMs or at gas stations. Listen to disturbing news, read calls for help and worry about relatives and friends.
I was very scared. It is clear that the Donbas will be the first to be hit. After all, the “LDNR” stated that they want to see their “republics” within the administrative boundaries of the oblasts. And my city is just in this zone. Therefore, we waited for a "brotherly" greeting every night. Shelling increased along the line of demarcation. There were human casualties. But everything happened in another way. The enemy hit where he was not expected at all.
Previously, a blue glamorous notebook was solely for recording the dates of visits to a beauty salon
24.02.2022: "Wedding gift from putin"
I woke up before the alarm from the phone rang. The husband picked up the phone, from where his sister's crying voice could be heard. She shouted that Dnipro was being bombed. They started about half past five in the morning. Having picked up her phone, she quickly ran through the notifications from the telegram channels. Ballistic missiles have struck across the country, from East to West, as well as along the border with Russia. My heart sank in horror. This is war.
Mechanically, I began to get ready for work. I wrote in a working chat being already dressed: what to do? Should I take the regular bus or not? There was no answer, so I went. A colleague called me when I was already almost at the stop, and said that we were staying at home until further notice. I returned back. My husband and I did not know what to do. What steps to take? It is good that at least the day before, I made him fill the car up to a full tank.
We decided that we needed to go to ATMs and withdraw money from the cards. There was almost no cash at home. We tried not to withdraw it once again, so as not to spend a lot. We wanted to save up money for our son's wedding, which was scheduled for August. Yes, about the wedding. My husband and I registered our marriage on this day, twenty-seven years ago.
27.02.2022: "Panic seized us"
Three days passed in endless fuss. Of course, the ATMs were empty early in the morning on the day the war began. But still, they were refilled, albeit little by little, and we stood in lines for several hours in different parts of the city to cash out the cards. No one knew what would happen tomorrow, the POS terminals were abruptly turned off everywhere.
Queues to the pharmacy, ATM and supermarket in the early days of the war.
Foodstuff was swept off store shelves at lightning speed. Cereals, canned food, sugar, water. The supermarkets were empty by the evening of February 24. Meat and sausages disappeared. Candles, kerosene, gas burners, generators, flashlights and batteries – all this became a great shortage. Pet stores became empty as well. Pet carriers were sold out. Even the most expensive ones.
Military pancakes – when bread was not brought.
We also made a strategic stock of products. POS terminals in stores were gradually connected, because in the mining city, where the majority have a considerable salary or pension, the majority had problems with cash. We were never able to cash out all our cards completely. We just bailed, not wanting to stand in lines anymore.
28.02.2022: "The situation sucks"
We started working remotely. It must have been a lifesaver. Not only in material terms as support. More in moral. Although the company supported its employees and paid another advance almost immediately after the first one, which was credited on February 21. Now we are with money.
The prices of food and other goods have skyrocketed. Everything that suppliers managed to bring to stores is immediately sold out. We repeatedly buy products. The freezer is full. If the electricity is turned off, everything will be spoiled.
Neighbors began to equip a shelter in the basement. My husband and I brought a few chairs from the garage. Some blankets and soft old furniture seats. Someone brought benches, others – water and candles. Then boards for the townspeople were brought from the coal company. The men laid them on the concrete floor and made a few more benches. I went down to the basement to look at their work. After a couple of minutes, my throat became scratchy, there was not enough air…
01.03.2022: "Come to us, the Jews paid off"
All this time, my husband's sister called us to go to Dnipro. She said that all the Jews there, headed by Kolomoyskyi, are sitting in the Minor and are not going to leave. That they paid off putin, so that Dnipro would not be bombed. But the sister herself talked about leaving at the beginning of February, when rumors about the upcoming war were circulating. I did not leave right away, because I could not leave my elderly parents, one of whom can no longer take care of himself.
I also have an elderly mother here and an even older aunt. Mom does not walk well, and my aunt has been living in her own world for almost two years because of the onset of dementia. Where to put the old people to? They do not want to go anywhere. Auntie guards her junk, and mother does not like to change her way of life. She is an authoritarian person. My older brother is with her. And my aunt is on me.
Husband's sister fights with guilt. She wants to leave, but she cannot make up her mind. I do not think about leaving yet. Although there is an opportunity to go to Europe with the youngest son and wait out this terrible time. But leaving my husband alone is also not an option. And the eldest son and daughter-in-law do not want to leave.
02.03.2022: "You cannot leave, stay"
My husband's sister left anyway. The end point of her journey is Alanya. Now the sister-in-law with two children lives there.
Well, we fall asleep every night with fear and cold on the back. There are unsettling news from Mariupol and Volnovakha. These cities are under siege under continuous fire. People from Volnovakha leave under bullets. They are settled in our city - in schools, kindergartens and hostels. The townspeople collected tons of clothes. They all help. How scary it is to be homeless. I do not even want to think about it!
People evacuated from Volnovakha arrived in Pokrovsk
Things for refugees from hot spots
03.03.2022: "First arrival"
Today we had to go down to the basement. The first fear arrived at about eight in the evening. There was a loud bang somewhere that shook our house. Several barrages were heard in response. We quickly got dressed, took the documents and the cat and went to the basement. Other neighbors soon followed. Everyone was on their phones. Someone said that both bridges connecting the city with exit roads were blown up. But later, the information was not confirmed. It was a panic, which, however, was dispersed across all Telegram channels. I began to receive messages in the messenger from another oblast that, supposedly, we were already having street fights.
Everything cleared up from the official information in the morning. Bridges are standing. The air defense shot down a ballistic missile. The basement of this multi-storey building and several detached houses were damaged. Cluster shells scattered throughout the area. Then people were blown up on them. Several people died from these explosions. Our relative found several of such things in his yard. The pyrotechnics were called. It got even scarier.
12.03.2022: "Classmates denazify"
I deleted a chat with a group of russian classmates. I regret that I did not do this on the first day of the war. I could not bear what they wrote there. I had to take carvalment. Adrenaline boiled, blood driven to my head and my heart seemed to jump out of my chest.
You can not prove anything to these people. They are brainwashed by putin's propaganda. My arguments are of no interest to them. Of course, they know better what is happening on my land. We were left alone with another classmate, our small Ukrainian diaspora, and now every day we share that we are alive and well. See you after the win!
16.03.2022: "Hit next to the house"
Days are monotonous: we woke up, we are safe, it did not shoot at night - thank God. We wanted to go visit my mother during the day, we went to the garage and we could hear something rattling in the distance on the way.
At about eleven at night, the building which is located three hundred meters from our house was hit. This became clear later. In the meantime, it banged so that the icon fell from the shelf. The son saw a glow in the window of the nursery. We convulsively grabbed warm clothes and ran into the basement. Besides us, only one neighbor came there.
The husband looked out of the door. Something was burning in the area of the car fleet. The night passed deliriously.
17.03.2022: "A difficult decision"
In the morning, we decided to leave for Dnipro to my sister's house, which her husband's parents were left to guard. We collected some things, documents, closed the apartment and brought the keys to the eldest son. The parrot was left at home, his son had to take it to him. The young people refused to go. They have a job and a dog. Old people too. No matter how I tried to persuade my mother and aunt, they refused.
We stood in line for a long time at the exit from the city. Everyone was carefully checked at the checkpoint. There were many checkpoints along the way, but no one stopped us. The closer we got to Dnipro, the calmer I became. We were there five hours later.
I did not want to leave until the very end. It felt like I would never go back. The apartment has recently been renovated. Gradually, piece by piece, in the space of two years. I left all my scrapbooking creativity, a whole mini-workshop. Did not take a collection of designer jewelry. I left all my fur coats. Why take up space in the car with something that is not useful now? We took one suitcase and a bag for three. Clothes are just to change. And spring jackets. I do not want to think about the bad, but I am worried about my home.
One of the designer beaded jewelry from craftswoman Katya Voit, a displaced person from Donetsk
18.03.2022: "Scary news"
Probably, I slept well for the first time in a long period. But the morning of the new day did not bring anything good. At about ten o'clock, I read that our city was shelled again, and directly in our district.
A few minutes later, the son called back, he was driving the car at that time. Started to rumble. He somehow brought the car to work and rushed home to save the dog. A neighbor's house was hit. This is twenty steps from our entrance. Glass in the houses nearby broke from fragments and the blast wave. In the son's apartment, the balcony on one side and the bedroom window on the other were damaged. My aunt has the same story.
The son and his colleagues patched up his aunt's balcony and window as best he could. She keзе a stiff upper lip. What cannot be said about me. I tried my best to persuade her to leave. I was ready to rush and pick her up. Or hire a carrier. But the aunt flatly refused to leave. “How I will leave my apartment. My whole life is here!”, - she answers the phone. “So what is more valuable to you: life or junk?” The aunt's answer was unequivocal and firm: "Junk!".
The youth (son and daughter-in-law) decided to leave. This arrival scared everyone. The office was closed until better times. I got through the night with difficulty. I called both my mother and my aunt in the evening. I was persuading them to leave. But they did not agree. Guilt gnaws at me. I abandoned them. Moreover, even before the war, my aunt hid her passport somewhere and cannot find it. Because of her illness, her short memory is getting worse and worse. Oh, trouble!
19.03.2022: "Temporary calm"
Suddenly it dawned on me: the parrot remained closed in the apartment! He was to be taken by the son. But there was a shelling and everything changed dramatically. The son is leaving too. Fortunately, a downstairs neighbor took care of the bird.
Finally the youth arrived. They settled in the mother-in-law's apartment. For a short time, my heart was relieved. But thoughts about mother, brother and aunt, who remained in a dangerous place, kept on the hop. Every call made me tense.
It was constantly spinning in my head that I left my relatives. Loud noises annoy me, they make my heart miss a beat. Touches are unpleasant. I want to hide in a cocoon and get away from all problems. Thank God - there is work. But another message about the evening shelling of our city threw me off my stride again.
Another call to my mother. I urge her to leave. She motivates the refusal with her infirmity. I do not believe in this. Forces to reach a taxi can be found. Plus, my brother is there. She just does not want to step out of her comfort zone. To abandon her familiar environment and go nowhere. Thank God, their district was not shelled.
22.03.2022: "Dnipro has sheltered many"
Dnipro has everything. The shops are full of groceries and various goods. Even delicacies are plentiful. Seafood, expensive cheeses, meats and sausages of all kinds. Prices are slightly higher than before the start of the war. But, at least, much lower than in our city. Friends say on the phone that sugar is imported at 100-120 hryvnia per kilogram. And potatoes for 70. There is a shortage of many goods. Especially fuel. And it is much more expensive than in the Dnipropetrovsk oblast. Gasoline and other types of fuel are available at the Dnipro gas stations without interruption. Retail outlets and banks work, but the working day is mostly until 16-17.
There are many cars with the Donetsk license plates in the city, and their number is growing every day. My husband often sees acquaintances from our town. Once I had to take a taxi. I was driven by a man in a jeep. It turned out that he and his family came from Kharkiv. They live here in the apartment of friends who have moved even further. He went to work to feed himself. Our youth is also thinking about work. The money will run out sooner or later. We need to live on.
Sirens sound in the city several times a day. Very oppressive sound. But the Dnipro residents no longer pay attention to it. They go about their business. Although the danger of an air raid is very great…
23.03.2022: "The Germans treated us better"
I call my family every day. Aunt flatly refuses to leave. I am trying to explain that it is dangerous to stay in our city right now. But she thinks badly and thinks only about her property. I understand that it was all a lot of work to earn all this. And it is difficult for a person who survived the Second World War, hunger, occupation and devastation to part with their belongings. But life is at stake.
"You know, even the Germans did not treat us in the occupation the way russia does now. My brother and I were small and sat in the cellar. They started knocking on the door to our house and shouting in German. While the mother got out, they took the door off its hinges and entered. They saw us looking out of the cellar, and the officer said: “Here is kaput. There (in the cellar) - gut!", - the aunt says by phone.
What should I do with them? IThe heart breaks that I am relatively safe, and the old people are not far from the front line.
24.03.2022: "Assault force in sweet home"
My husband and eldest son decided to go home today. Check the apartments, tape up the windows, visit old people, change snow tires and pick up some things. It might be possible to persuade my aunt to leave. I was very worried, the situation is changing every day, there is a danger of being cut off from peaceful territory and remaining in occupation. But the husband insisted.
They arrived safely. The city is quiet, most services and shops work. We changed the wheels at the tire shop and drove to the apartment. Further arrangement of the shelter in the basement is underway in our house. They decided to build a bathroom there. Neighbors chipped in for building materials and plumbing. They tapped right into the public sewer.
We tried to persuade my aunt to go to Dnipro. She cried, but did not agree. Then the son and her husband brought her food, said goodbye and left.
Late in the evening, we jumped from two explosions. It was very well audible and the house staggered. God! You cannot hide from the war anywhere. My youngest son and I went down to the basement. And the mother-in-law safely overslept the air raid in the armchair. She did not hear anything. I admire her calmness. And the father-in-law has Alzheimer's disease, a person lives in his own world and sometimes does not understand what people want from him.
February 25, 2022: "Not my Plan B"
We found out in the morning that there was a missile attack on one of the military units on the outskirts of Dnipro. My husband's sister called. She plans to call the craftsmen and board up all the windows in the house. And then she wants my husband to take her parents to another place and stay there with them. And she advises me and my youngest son "to go somewhere as well".
This plan does not suit me at all. I understand the sister-in-law, she worries about her parents. But we also have a family, and we want to keep together. Maybe it is good that my old people stayed at home. It turns out that our shelter is very relative. Probably, we will soon have to decide whether to move from the war further to the West of the country, or to return back to our home...
Daria Ivanova, Pokrovsk-Dnipro, specially for the OstroV website. Photo by the author