‘Terrified that my country will disappear:’ Ukrainians fear as invasion closes in

Russia At War

(NewsNation Now) — Ukrainian civilians are fleeing after finding their lives at risk on the second day of Russia’s invasion, shelling on the outskirts of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, struck their residential building before dawn.

Many civilians, horrified to find their lives at risk, started to flee during the attack’s first hours. Amid the smoke and the wailing of car alarms Friday, Yurii Zhyhanov and his family packed and joined them.

“What are you doing? What is this?” Zhyhanov said, addressing Russia and gesturing to the damaged building behind him. “If you want to attack military personnel, attack military personnel. This is all I can say.”

Those who didn’t wake to explosions were roused by another day of air raid sirens. Then came the news that Russian forces had advanced to the outskirts of the capital.

“I grabbed my daughter, and we basically went to the bathroom. I can’t describe how stressful this is,” said Oleksandr Ivanov, a Kharkiv resident and political activist.

Ivanov said he and his 7-year-old daughter have been taking shelter in his apartment’s bathroom because, “It’s the safest place without windows.”

He said his daughter is scared to death.

“She was just trembling and crying. the only thing I could do — I was hugging her and telling her that dad is with you, don’t worry, I’m going to protect you, it’s going to be fine,” Ivanov recalled.

Arina Otbliesk, a student in Kyiv, said she woke up to her home shaking and what felt like an earthquake.

She said her classes have been canceled with no word of return, and buildings around her school are gone.

“I am terrified of seeing my family harmed. I am terrified of just all this ending like that. I am terrified that my country will disappear,” she said.

Otbliesk’s friends are taking shelter in metro stations. When NewsNation asked her why she and her family weren’t fleeing as other Ukrainians have, Otbliesk said “we don’t know what to do now because the traffic from Kyiv is well huge.”

“The traffic is disastrous, the lines of thousands of cars and many kilometers long, it’s absolutely terrible, people are terrified,” Ivanov said.

Others like Serhiy Kvit, a Kyiv-Mohyla School of Journalism professor, are taking shelter in underground garages, but also with no intention of leaving the country.

“The situation is very dangerous, but I personally have a lot of responsibilities,” Kvit said.

“It’s my country, we need to defend it,” Ivanov said. “I have lots of friends, I have relatives here, we need to stand up. We have no choice, it’s all-in war for us.”

Several Ukrainian civilians, NewsNation spoke said they plan to stay and fight for their country, no matter how bad it gets.

Meanwhile, at a train station just across the border in Poland, hundreds of people from Ukraine sought shelter. Some curled up on cots, trying to sleep. A woman stroked the hair of a young girl.

One of those at the station was Andry Borysov, who said he had heard the rush of something flying overhead and then an explosion as he hurried to catch a train out of Kyiv.

“It was an unmistakable sound,” he said.

Some hesitated to leave Ukraine, even as they stood on railway platforms.

In Kostiantynivka, a government-controlled area in the separatist-held Donetsk People’s Republic, a woman who gave only her first name, Yelena, appeared undecided.

“It’s 50-50 on whether it is worth leaving or not,” she said. “But it wouldn’t hurt to leave for a couple days, for a weekend.”

Others leaving Ukraine knew it might take much longer before they could return home.

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