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Dairy from Kyiv


Tymofii Brik. Ph.D. in Social Science Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, KSE professor and researcher

Hi friends!  This are some highlights from my recent days in Kyiv:

 

February 24, we woke up early in the morning around 5 am from a Telegram call from our friend saying, “its started”. We immediately started talking with dozens of people on Telegram, Whatsapp, and Viber: a chat with coworkers, a chat with students, a chat with neighbors, a chat which was created to party for a birthday of a friend, calls with parents. 

  • A significant share of our friends decided to hit the road and move west: Zhytomyr, Vinnytsia, Lviv, Ternopil, Ivan-Frankivsk. We were invited to join them but decided to stay in Kyiv. 
  • We agreed to keep each other posted. When someone types “update” or “status” in the chat, all other people should respond to their location, mental health, and need any support. We share info on gasoline stations, traffic jams, and the possible bombing of roads. Also, we shared the addresses of people who can host travelers. 
  • We were prepared to stay in Kyiv but scared anyway. My girlfriend and I had stocked a lot of food, water, a medical toolkit, and warm clothes about a week ago. We also had all necessary documents (with printed and digital copies), handwritten addresses and phone numbers of relatives and friends in Ukraine and other countries. We also prepared our backpacks. First, my backpack was huge (fast forward to the next day, I eventually dropped a lot of stuff out, keeping only the most essential things). We also used a special Telegram chatbot “Ready to everything.” This bot has crucial information about what to have in our bags, the sequence of actions in case of the attack, and the address of all army offices. We also used a link to the google mapwith all addresses of shelters nearby. Although it was created by government institutions, we received it through multiple telegram channels of volunteers and friends. 
  • We started following all the official chats and channels: city administration, defense, and internal affairs. Many people shared rumors and fake news in chats, so the government had to combat it. Our friends from Vox Ukraine created a special reporting linededicated to fakes and disinformation. All major media announced that it is crucial to report only verified information and asked to share this message to all channels.
  • Many volunteers, including my coworkers and students, started to work on lists of people who can host travelers, petitions to Western governments, calls for sanctions, etc. We also monitored websites and channels with disinformation to report and block them. And, of course, we spent a lot of time answering all our international friends, colleagues, conference attendees, journalists. At some point, I simply screenshotted one of my answers and forwarded it as a template since it was very time costly to keep up with all the writing. Among others, I received several messages from my Russian friends. Some of them asked me "is it true?". Apparently, the information there was so scarce and obscure they had to verify it with me.
  • We spent all day reading scary news about attacks in all parts of Ukraine. The tactics were to bomb infrastructure and then move through borders. Many experts told us this is what is going to happen, but the idea that Belarus is complicit and that Russian troops will move from the North still was a shock to me. Also, it was a moment of quick realization that there is no safe place anymore.

February 25, we woke up around 4-4.30 a.m., hearing some explosions. We checked all channels and saw many photos and videos, also official statements, that the Kyiv air defense system shot down rockets. One of them fell on the residential area in Kyiv. Several of my friends lived nearby, they decided to move to another neighborhood in Kyiv. 

  • We spent the morning reading and checking on our friends. Then, we decided to hide in the shelter which is the basement of our house. You know like in big cities people often don't know the names of their neighbors, barely say hi, usually minding their own business. Today, we discovered that we have amazing neighbors. We exchanged contacts, introduced our cats, talked about work and life, etc. Eventually one of them decided to take a train to Western Ukraine, to be closer to her relatives.
  • Then, about 11 a.m. (I can’t remember), my girlfriend and I decided to walk around and check the local army office. We walked to the office but saw a huge crowd: men and women, young and old. The line of volunteers was huge. People were called one by one based on previous experience (e.g. served in the army). 
  • We went to the military hospital nearby, thinking of donating blood. we were told that the donations were taken only in the early morning (we arrived too late. We walked home.
  • We spent all day walking to the shelter and back. We learned and shared information for more donations. Many people supplied empty bottles for Molotov cocktails, portable gas burners, medicine, and other supplies. My family and friends donated money using the state service «Дія». The government also allowed regular people to send this money to the army on this day. Millions of UAH were donated immediately. 
  • Russian forces tried to land in Gostomel, while Ukrainian troops defended this place all day. One of my friends and coauthors lives in this city. Her husband is in the territorial defense forces. We were chatting on Facebook and wishing each other to stay strong.
  • We also were reading news about saboteurs in Kyiv and other cities. Ukrainian civilians are asked to search for special marks that Russian saboteurs leave on walls, on the ground, or on roofs. These marks help to target missile strikes. My girlfriend and I decided to look for such marks in the evening. We did not find any. So she wanted to climb the house to see the roof (we did not have the keys). She loves climbing. It was dark and slippery. It took me a lot to convince her not to climb a building like a spider-woman. She also texted her climbing buddies and consulted "how to do it", collectively they decided not to risk it, thank God.
  • Curfew 22 pm – 7 am was announced. 
  • Eventually, we ended up staying all night in our shelter. Our officials warned civilians that the night would be very tough. The Kyiv was under attack from the North (tanks were coming), and airstrikes were expected.
  • Our shelter also had decent Internet, so we were reading news about localized fights all night. I read that the Ukrainian army destroyed a column of Russian vehicles around Beresteiska in Kyiv. I regularly go to Beresteiska subway station, near Kyiv School of Economics, where I teach and do research. The fight was pretty close to our campus.

 

February 26,

  • First thing in the morning, I read the news that a house on Str. Lobanovskogo 6-a was bombed in Kyiv. My friend lives there. She is an excellent sociologist, a fantastic person with two kids. She is from Donetsk originally, and Kyiv was her second home. Later, she posted on Facebook that she was alive and safe.
  • Then I read this crazy news that someone gave birth in a shelter in a subway. 
  • Then, the day was full of events for the Ukrainian army. Brutal combat in so many cities. The most difficult part was to know that Russian troops were in Kyiv, riding via my neighborhood where I was born – Obolon. All day, our army was chasing them and pushing them back.
  • My girlfriend received a call from her relatives in Russia. They tried to convince us that this is all not happening, and Kyiv was not under attack. Apparently, they knew better
  • Russian army bombed residential areas in different cities, which I read from official channels but also from my friends who were sending photos and videos from their towns. 
  • Our official channels distributed info on how regular people can help the army: to take off-road signs, to report about movements of Russian vehicles, to watch out for. More friends joined territorial defense forces.

Eventually, we decided to sleep at home. Rest and mental health are essential. We developed two practices:

1) one person sleeps, another monitors news and air sirens
2) booths people sleep but we set alarms every hour.

 

February 27.

  • Events are difficult to count. So much news about fights here and there, a lot of saboteurs who dress up as civilians. Cities around Kyiv are bombed. I worry for Sumy and Kharkiv a lot.
  • Shocking tactics in Kyiv. Saboteurs use ambulance machines to disguise themselves. 
  • Worrying news from Belarus. Seems that the country will join Russian forces.
  • We stay all day at home, and a new curfew is announced till tomorrow. Working a lot to coordinate, talk to foreign friends and institutions,  prepare events, and spread information.  

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