The following stories are harrowing. Read at your own risk.
When the invasion started, I was woken up by my sister in tears. Our parents were stuck in Ukraine, and we were separated by thousands of kilometers, not knowing what could happen to them.
Luckily, they were able to leave. However, their journey was terrifying–they were leaving the city of Kyiv on the second day of the war. They were almost robbed by bystanders on the streets looking for gas, and they had to drive through the woods in the dark with no roads and nowhere to stop.
We were unable to reach our parents for some time - there was no cell service at all. Every single person in safety was constantly checking the news, hoping their family would not appear among the posts.
After a week, they were able to cross the border and reunite with us. To this day, we are more than grateful and do everything in our power to help the rest of the civilians who, in one way or another, had their lives destroyed due to an ongoing war. We donate food, medical supplies, and money, volunteer at the organizations and help to package and ship the supplies to battlefields in Ukraine. And we try to bring awareness to the war as much as possible because we know how painful the feeling of loss can be.
The war broke out when I was only nine. Awakened by a missile strike, I heard the quiet sobbing of my mother–my little heart broke apart, and a small piece of it never returned back to me. The next day, my mother got me and my grandmother on a train, but at that time I understood that I would never come back.
On February 24th, history repeated itself. I was terrified, sobbing on my bathroom floor after a panic attack, rejecting the obvious fact that most likely I would have to go through the same thing again. The only word that was constantly appearing in my thoughts was “pain”. I had just moved into a new city, and it seemed that my life was coming together piece by piece, however, one night destroyed it all. It seemed like the war was following me wherever I went, and that there was no safe place left in the whole world.
I didn't even realize that the war had begun. Following my usual routine, I was five minutes away from my workplace when I finally heard the news on the radio. Then, of course, I freaked out - all of my plans were destroyed by the Russian invasion. My soon-to-be-wife, my whole family, my homeland - everything was in danger. I tried to get gas and the necessary food to survive on the way home. However, grocery shops were already empty, and the gas lines were more than ample.
When my turn came, the worker turned everyone away since the station was utterly drained, as the previous five I tried were. The city was slowly drowning in anarchy and chaos. But even then, I did not change my decision to stay and fight for my freedom and country.
The next day I joined the territorial defense. The amount of danger, fear, and anger I endured during those times will be something that will leave a permanent scar in my memory. Missiles were exploding on our heads, and gunshots were fired on almost every street. I witnessed the destruction of my best friend's home, followed by his death on the front line near the city of Mariupol. The company my girlfriend and I were working for was destroyed, as well as thousands of others. Economic stability went out the door, and millions of Ukrainians left their lives and homes behind every day with nothing but a backpack, looking for a safe place. It proved that no one knows what might happen tomorrow.
I was slowly walking across the street to get to my hotel when I received a call from my father. My initial thought was: “Why on earth is he awake? It is 4 in the morning….” I immediately understood that something terrible had happened, yet I could not imagine him saying the war had started.
After that day, I could not sleep properly for over five months. My hands were glued to my phone since I was constantly worried that I would sleep in on a call and miss a chance to say a final goodbye. My whole family was stuck with no way to escape since heavy attacks were happening every hour, and they still occur to this day. The rare pictures they could send froze the blood in my veins: dead bodies and destroyed buildings. People suffered from hunger and thirst since Russian war troops surrounded the city, and they would not let anyone in.
My relatives have adjusted their thinking to their horrifying reality to survive, and I could hear it from the rare conversations we were able to have, but no human being needs to get used to death.