I’ve now been in Kyiv for over two months and air raid sirens are almost a daily affair. Most last about 30 minutes and are uneventful, causing more of an inconvenience rather than a rush to the shelters. Yesterday however, was different. I awoke to a siren at 6:47 am that lasted over four hours.
Russian missiles were fired into the centre of Kyiv for the first time in a long while, striking the central Shevchenkivs’kyi district where some of the most expensive flats can be found. Moreover, Shevchenkivs’kyi is where the beautiful St. Michael’s monastery and St. Sophia’s cathedrals are located. I filmed a marching band practise there a few weeks ago, and I had lunch at a lovely café there on Sunday.
Don’t mention the war
It’s been easy to forget there’s a war raging in the eastern regions of the country because Kyiv has been calm and ‘normal’ aside from the aforementioned air raid sirens. All that has now changed. The impact of Russian missiles just a 20 minute walk from my hotel has reminded me and all my hotel staff ‘family’, that the risk of a massive attack on Kyiv is soberingly real.
Throughout my time in Kyiv the people I’ve met have been incredibly strong and resilient in their quiet acceptance of war with Russia. But yesterday morning was different, people are now nervous and unsure what to do.
Homeless and helpless
Valeria lives on the left side of Kyiv but she can’t get home because transit has been halted and the bridges are closed. Her family, official documents and everything she owns is literally just out of reach. Artem lives a block away but ran home to see his girlfriend and buddy. All three will return to the hotel where there’s a basement shelter complete with cinema and laundry rooms. We’re considering moving the booze and DJ equipment downstairs from the rooftop bar just in case we end up in the bomb shelter for several days.
While it is easy to despair when under attack from a faceless enemy firing missiles from the safety of Belorussian airspace, it’s important not to head underground until absolutely necessary. Yes, we discuss preparing the shelter, but we’re not going down quite yet. Because, that’s exactly what Putin wants. He wants all Ukrainians to feel scared. He wants all Ukrainians to hide in their basements cowering in fear, but that is not happening.
The metro stations in Kyiv are prepared to shelter everyone from attacks that may or may not happen, but those already there are singing Ukrainian folks songs and the national anthem. At the hotel we are united in conversation, eating and drinking, but also raising our middle fingers to the sky at any missiles that may arrive. The moment we run scared is the moment Putin wins.