Voices of Ukraine: Hear from people on the ground of the invasion

Russia At War

(NewsNation Now) — A web developer turned bomb shelter coordinator, a lawyer turned food distributor and a literary scholar now organizing escape routes: Ukrainians on the ground are doing what they can as Russian forces escalate attacks on their country.

Since Russia’s invasion began, NewsNation has been reaching out to ordinary Ukrainians to make sure their voices are included in coverage of the conflict dominating headlines around the world.

We’ll keep this article updated with all the latest details as the conflict continues and we’re able to connect with more people on the ground.

Below are excerpts from the interviews, edited for clarity and length.


“We support each other as much as we can, with everything that we have.”

Alina Mishkur, Baker, undisclosed location

Alina Mishkur’s parents own a café in Ukraine. She left her job as a lawyer to help them out when a “crazy man,” as she calls Russian President Vladimir Putin, attacked the country.

“Every day, from the mornings to nights, we bake bread,” she said. “We do it for our defenders, we have a local defense division…. and we also do it for the population.”

Those who can pay do, and for those who can’t, Mishkur and her parents give them the bread for free.

“[It’s] our part in this crazy war,” she said.


“She has no idea and no chance to get out from from the city.”

Viktoriia Khutorna, journalist, western Ukraine

Viktoriia Khutorna, a Ukrainian journalist, says she was unable to reach her mother in northern Ukraine for days, fearing the worst. She now knows she’s is safe, but staying in touch is still a struggle.

“Some people from my area, they called me and said my mom really wanted us to know that she’s fine, she’s doing OK and she’s very worried about us because we’ve lost the connection while we were moving from a city near Kyiv to much more safer place in the western part of Ukraine,” she said.

She says her mother lives in a city near Chernobyl and has no way out.

“I know some people try to leave the area from the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, and they managed successfully to do this, but that’s just one case,” Khutorna said. “And it’s very dangerous, because you never know how Russian troops will behave and what they gonna do with just regular people and citizens.”


“Being born in war is already bravery in itself.”

Alex Dayrabekov, Father, Irpin

Alex Dayrabekov, his wife and newborn son abandoned their home in Irpin, just west of the capital city of Kyiv, two days into the war.

At the same time, Dayrabekov says his son has given him “a lot of strength.”

“Every time I talk to him, I tell him he’s a warrior,” Dayrabekov said on NewsNation Prime.

Dayrabekov began chronicling his family’s evacuation in videos posted on Twitter. He’s shown surreal clips of his son hiccupping with air raid sirens in the background and photos of the charred remains of once-proud buildings.


“Now, we are on the frontlines. Now we have a base and ammunition. I’ve got training with javelins and knives.”

Maksym Skubenko, chief executive of VoxUkraine, KYIV

Maksym Skubenko, a volunteer member of Ukraine’s military says the numbers don’t tell the story of the war so far.

“I’m seeing that Russia is losing the war,” Skubenko said. “I saw, a few days ago, how they were running through the forest  They’re losing hope.”

Skubenko is the chief executive of VoxUkraine — an independent analytical organization and fact-checking service in Kyiv. When Russia invaded in February, he set aside his work and joined the Territorial Defense Forces.

“Civilians are exhausted, we are not able to sleep in the night for almost a month.”

Maria Shuvalova, lecturer, Outside Kyiv

Ukrainian professor Martina Shuvalova says some people have stopped reacting to every air raid siren and are growing tired of living in a war zone.

“I notice that people are not willing to run to the bomb shelter when we are having sirens so it’s extremely dangerous and terrible,” she said.

Shuvalova, a literary scholar and lecturer sheltering outside Kyiv, has frequently spoken with NewsNation since the Russian invasion began.


“There is no more safety places in Ukraine.”


Nazar Zinchuk, executive editor of LvivLab.com and student at the Franko National University of Lviv, said attacks in his part of the country are getting worse and Vladimir Putin’s speech at a rally Friday was “so stupid.”

“To speak to Russian people now, it’s not important because they probably have been eaten by this propaganda and they don’t care what’s happening here,” Zinchuk said.

Zinchuk has been in contact with NewsNation since the invasion began last month and has been training to fight for his country.


“I hope I am safe.”

Solomiia Bobrovska, Ukrainian parliament member, Kyiv

Ukrainian parliament member Solomiia Bobrovska joined “Banfield” again after leaving an interview early Wednesday due to bombings.

“It hit one of the houses 4 kilometers from me,” Bobrovska said.

She says Ukraine’s parliament members are still meeting weekly amid Russia’s invasion.

“We all understand the risks, but it’s our duty,” she said.


“We expect they will continue to attack the Ukrainian capitol.”

Solomiia Bobrovska, Ukrainian parliament member, Kyiv

Ukrainian parliament member Solomiia Bobrovska had to leave her interview on “Banfield” early as the sound of bombs became too close for comfort.

“I have to leave the interview because this shelling is so close, and I have to go to a bomb shelter,” Bobrovska said. “I’m sorry.”

Bobrovska is the deputy head of the Ukrainian delegation to NATO. She joined NewsNation around 4 a.m., her time, when the bombing started. The sound of explosions could be heard in the background.

“All Kyiv is prepared for the worst scenario.”

Maria Shuvalova, lecturer, Outside Kyiv

Maria Shuvalova, a literary scholar and lecturer sheltering outside Kyiv, has frequently spoken with NewsNation since the Russian invasion began. Despite more attacks on the capital, she still remains optimistic that they can hold off Russian troops.

“All my friends and only family who are in Kyiv, they started preparing for the worst scenario three days ago,” Shuvalova said. “And even a few my friends, they come back to Kyiv from the safe place because for them, it was much more easier morally to stay home and to stay prepared.”

“Whole area is a cut off and there is no internet, there is no connection.”

Viktoriia Khutorna, western Ukraine

ViKtoriia Khutorna is now in western Ukraine after fleeing with her brother and her sister-in-law. Her mom, who lives outside Kyiv, did not leave and Viktoriia has not spoken with her in 11 days.

“She asked me to call her in a couple of hours and I tried to and I couldn’t, because the connection was already broke,” Khutorna said. And I tried to get her friends from the city and my friends from the city and there was already no connection.”


“We are have three rules of how to know when you should leave the basement.”

Maria Shuvalova, lecturer, Outside Kyiv

Maria Shuvalova, a literary scholar and lecturer at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla-Academy, is taking shelter outside the capital. She says they look for three signs to know when it is safe to leave the basement.

“We have special mobile app that is signaling it’s safe now to walk out and also when the sirens stop, stop screaming, and usually, it takes one hour to spend in your basement,” Shuvalova said.

Shuvalova has been in contact with NewsNation since shortly after the invasion started. She previously said she is helping find legal aid for those who have been arrested, coordinating escape routes for those who want to flee and is fighting propaganda.

“We hope for more help from the West.”

Olena GNes, Tour guide, Kyiv

Olena Gnes is a Ukrainian sightseeing tour guide who is still on the ground in the capital city of Kyiv. She and her three children, including a 4-month-old, have been sleeping in a basement while her husband fights for the country.

“There are two options basically: to run away or to stay in fight,” Gnes said. “And those people who were too much of afraid, they already left Kyiv, and the others, crazy like me, we stay and we still hope that it will end.”

“He also asked me to pray.”

Anna Rakova, student, lviv

Anna Rakova is a student at Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. She’s also a writer and her father is fighting on the front lines.

“We are still trying to be in touch and I can send a message to him like a few times today,” Rakova said, adding that he has asked her to pray for him.

Rakova says she plans to stay in the country as the Russian invasion continues.

“I will do as much as I can for the victory,” she said.

“We can be the eyes of the world inside the country.”

Alina Vrublevska, fashion PR, Lviv

Alina Vrublevska, who works in fashion public relations, and fashion photographer Anna are chronicling their everyday life using an online journal. Vrublevska told NewsNation that she is living between an apartment and a bomb shelter and many of her friends have left.

“Crossing the border is possible because countries around show a higher level of hospitality, they accept our refugees, they help with the placement inside the country, they provide food,” Vrublevska said on “Morning in America.” “But for us, we decided that we trust our government, we believe in our country, and we believe that we can be here and be still useful on our luck with what we can do. So we can show the world, we can be the eyes of the world inside the country and show what’s actually happening. So like, while we feel that we are useful, we chose to stay”

Vrublevska believes it is their duty to document and share their stories and photos with the world.


“People have no food, no water, no electricity, no phone connection or medical care.”

Oleksandra Matviichuk, human rights lawyer, Kyiv

Oleksandra Matviichuk, Kyiv-based human rights lawyer and civil society leader and chairwoman of the Center of Civil Liberties, believes the attacks on Ukrainian civilians are intentional.

“The Russians are attacking humanitarian corridors to get more casualties and provoke panic,” said Matviichuk.

Matviichuk began documenting Russian war crimes after the country invaded Crimea in 2014 and sees similarities in this invasion.

“Russia uses war crimes as a tool of conducting war,” she said. “It’s a deliberate policy. We, unfortunately, expected that in occupied territories.”


“Some people were dead.”

Yulia Zhdanova, survived airstrike, Chernihiv

Yulia Zhdanova, a mother of two who survived an airstrike in her hometown of Chernihiv, captured video that shows what Ukrainian civilians are up against. 

Zhdanova and her children are exhausted after days of air raid sirens. When they finally thought they had a chance to leave shelter and return to their home for food, she received an alert on her phone saying the worst was coming.

“I cried, shouted to my family to go behind the walls in the corridor,” she said. “When we got into the corridor, we heard a very loud explosion. It was so noisy and so loud. The windows were broken, and they were flying into ours.”

“I am trying to do something to help my nation, my society.”

Nazar Zinchuk, student, Lviv

Nazar Zinchuk, a student at the Franko National University of Lviv, says initial fear of war has given way to unity and resolve among Ukrainians.

“We don’t have that fear, which was in first days,” Zinchuk said on “NewsNation Prime.” “Now we see that we can fight and that we are winning this war. So even if Europe doesn’t want to help us, even if America is still silent, we are ready to fight this war.”

Zinchuk has been in contact with NewsNation since the invasion began last month, saying from the start that he was ready to “fight for my country.”

“The world is in World War III; that was started on the 24th of February 2022, when Russia declared its attacks on Ukraine.”

Lesia Vasylenko, Ukrainian Parliament member

Lesia Vasylenko, a Ukrainian Parliament member, says parliament members are “on a diplomatic mission to save Ukraine.”

“I’m working with eight other members of Parliament from Ukraine, all women, that are here presenting our country at the European Parliament and also at the Council of Europe’s extraordinary session dedicated to kicking Russia out from the Council of Europe,” she said. “This is very important for us right now as Ukraine has made a bid for EU membership and Ukraine has made a bid for all kinds of sanctions, including a no-fly zone over Ukraine to EU Member States and to Council of Europe member states.”

Vasylenko has been to documenting her countrymen’s quest for safety.

“I’m fine and my family is fine and safe. And that is what matters the most these days,” she said.


“Every day we have massive missile attacks.”

Maria Shuvalova, lecturer, Kyiv

Maria Shuvalova, a literary scholar and lecturer at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla-Academy, joined NewsNation to described the intense Russian shelling Kyiv is experiencing.

“Nights are severe because starting from 4 a.m. Russians start attacking us more often,” Shuvalova said.

Shuvalova said people who live as far as Canada are offering her family a place to go, but they have no plans to leave.

Shuvalova has been in contact with NewsNation since shortly after the invasion started. She previously said she is helping find legal aid for those who have been arrested, coordinating escape routes for those who want to flee and is fighting propaganda.

“Where should I go?”

Liudmyla Lukianets, Rivne

Liudmyla Lukianets, an expectant mother living in a bomb shelter, had strong words for Russia’s attack Wednesday on a Mariupol maternity hospital— calling it a “genocide” — but she still plans on staying in her homeland.

“Where should I go?” Lukianets asked on NewsNation’s “Morning in America.” “I hope the world will protect us, because 80 years after World War II, the world says, ‘Never again,’ but it is happening again right now.”

Lukianets has spoken to NewsNation multiple times since Russia invaded her country, saying she wants her child to be born in Ukraine.

“If all women and all children will leave the country, who will live here?” she asked. “I don’t want the enemy to invade my country. I don’t want to leave my country. I want to live in peace with my children, with my family. Am I asking too much? It’s my right.”

“After we win, and of course, we will win; I will be even more proud.”

Anna Andrusyk, internally displaced 

Anna Andrusyk fled Kyiv with her husband and two small children four days ago. They drove 300 miles from their home, stopping in several cities. While her family continues to seek shelter, she said she plans on staying in her country.

“So far, we are relatively safe, if I can use this expression,” Andrusyk said. “The first city where we stopped, the next morning, in two hours, four or eight Russian rockets damaged a part of that city, though it’s not the line of the front. It’s like deep in the country far away from the front. So I can’t say that we are absolutely safe. Relatively safe, we are.”

Andrusyk has been living in a cellar since the bombing started. 


“We are at a point of no return.”

Melaniya Podolyak, activist, Lviv

Activist Melaniya Podolyak says a lot of things have changed since she first spoke to NewsNation in the first hours of Russia’s full invasion. Although she says things are quiet in Lviv in terms of fighting, there is a large number of refugees in the western Ukraine city, and people there are feeling the impact to the economy.

NewsNation’s Marni Hughes asked Podolyak Wednesday how she felt about the Russian airstrike on a Mariupol maternity hospital.

“It is heartbreaking. It is infuriating. It is inhumane,” she said.

“The main aim of Putin is to destabilize us and terrify us.”

Maria Shuvalova, lecturer, Kyiv

Maria Shuvalova, a lecturer at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, has stayed with her family near the capital. She told “NewsNation Prime” Wednesday that bomb sirens are becoming more normal to her.

“So right now our main aim is to stay strong and to keep working despite how hard it is,” she said.

Shuvalova has been in contact with NewsNation since shortly after the invasion started. She previously said she is helping find legal aid for those who have been arrested, coordinating escape routes for those who want to flee and is fighting propaganda.

“We are enjoying the silence right now.”

Olia Federova , artist, Kharkiv

Olia Federova is a 28-year-old artist who made the decision to stay in her hometown of Kharkiv, Ukraine as the Russian invasion rolls on.

She is taking shelter in the basement of a ninth-century apartment building, hoping it’s three-foot-thick walls will be enough to withstand a direct hit.

“I am useful here as a warrior of words,” Federova said. “While I am here the world can know what is happening here.”


“Many of them don’t really know where they’re going.”

Yakiv Tsvietinskyi, helping refugees, lviv

Yakiv Tsvietinskyi, a Ukrainian jazz trumpet player and composer, is spending his time driving people from the city of Lviv to the border to shelters that still have room. He recently moved to the city in Western Ukraine from the central part of the country.

“I’m just a part of a big, big team of volunteers that are just using their private transfer to drive people around,” Tsvietinskyi said, adding that many of them don’t really know where they’re going.

He says trains are packed and take a long time because they “constantly change routes, moving unpredictable, so they cannot be easily tracked.”

“I want to raise my child as Ukrainian.”

Liudmyla Lukianets, Rivne

Liudmyla Lukianets, who is about three months pregnant, told NewsNation Tuesday she’s focused on staying calm, so the chaos of the Russia-Ukraine War doesn’t affect her baby. She spoke with NewsNation earlier this month from Rivne, a city of 250,000 in northwestern Ukraine. Lukianets is one of many Ukrainians taking refuge in basements and bomb shelters throughout the country.

Lukianets said on “Morning in America” Tuesday that staying was a difficult decision to make.

“I can be calm right now,” Lukianets said. “I want to raise my child as Ukrainian. … I want this world to be happy, I want this world, to be honest, I want this world to be safe.”

“I don’t think nobody thought that Russia was going to invade.”

Maurice “Mo” Creek, basketball player, recently returned to the U.s.

Maurice “Mo” Creek, a former American college basketball star, had been living in Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine and was playing professionally for the municipal basketball club when Russia invaded. Creek had been living in Ukraine for three years.

“Ukraine is a beautiful country, and they have great people there,” he said.

It took four days, but the former Indiana University and George Washington University standout was eventually evacuated through Moldova.

“Everybody tried to get out as soon as possible because everybody was scared,” Creek said.


“We did have a problem with stray animals in Ukraine, but now the number of abandoned pets have increased.”

Katya Kurletz, helping rescue pets, Bila Tserkva

Katya Kurletz is coordinating efforts to rescue pets in Ukraine. She is working with a global dog rescue organization called Transform a Street Dog, which helps reunite lost dogs and provides shelter for the abandoned ones.

“I can’t only think about myself. It gives me some sense of life if I do something for others,” Kurletz said.

Kurletz said the organization is working with European agencies for pet evacuation assistance. Currently, the organization is paying local drivers to take pets to the border, but more assistance is needed.

“I’m in a safe place and in my city … it’s all under control.”

Vsevolod “Bass” Dorofieiev, volunteer medic, Dnipro

Vsevolod “Bass” Dorofieiev is a volunteer medic with the Hospitallers. The group has been helping Ukrainians since 2014 when Russian troops first moved into the country to seize Crimea. They’re working to provide medical aid to Ukrainian fighters on the front lines and to get as many citizens as possible out of harm’s way. Dorofieiev is currently located in Dnipro, about 300 miles southeast of Kyiv.

“We (are) working with the soldiers and teaching how to apply the tourniquet, how to apply the bandages and all first medical help, how to do this immediately,” Dorofieiev said.


“To leave at this point would be like stopping in the middle of the game.”

Mark KoeHler, Mission Ukraine Children’s Hope, Undisclosed location

American Mark Koehler and his wife are the founders of Mission Ukraine Children’s Hope, an organization that works with disabled children in Ukraine. The organization currently has 13 massage therapists throughout the country.

“I had grew up with a disability and I spent most of my life trying to run away from it,” Koehler said on “NewsNation Prime” Saturday. “And when God called me here, he showed me that I can help them best because I’m like them.”

Despite the State Department urging Americans to leave the county, Koehler and his wife decided to stay to continue their mission.

“Yesterday and part of today, we’ve had a lot of bombing, a lot of firepower that we’ve heard,” Koehler said.


“We try to smile, to be happy, to be cheerful with them. It’s very hard to make such emotions that you (don’t have) in your soul.”

Olena, kHERSON

Olena is a mother who fled from Kherson to Ivano-Frankivsk, in the west of Ukraine and a few hours drive from Slovakia, Romania, Hungary and Poland. She took her 6-year-old daughter with her but had to leave her husband and family behind.

“We are afraid of everything. We’re afraid of sleeping. We’re afraid of just sitting silently because we’re just permanently nervous and we’re waiting for the worst,” said Olena, who asked only to be identified by her first name. As she spoke, her daughter, Mirasol, played in the small room where the two had taken refuge.

Keeping the harsh realities of war from Mirasol has been difficult for Olena.

“It’s very hard because I think — and most mothers think — that children shouldn’t see the war. And they shouldn’t understand what happens,” she said. “So we try to smile, to be happy, to be cheerful with them,” she said. “It’s very hard to make such emotions that you (don’t have) in your soul.”

To explain why they had to flee their home, Olena used a character from one of Mirasol’s favorite movies: “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. “We just say (to Mirasol) that the Orcs are here.”

Olena’s husband stayed behind in Kherson with some of her aging relatives. Ukrainian men have been barred by the government from leaving the country so they may stay and fight.

“We are afraid for our husbands. They are not soldiers. They are just ordinary people and they can’t do this,” she said. “I’m very afraid for my husband because I feel safe only when we are together. We would like to stay together.”

She hangs on to every difficult phone call.


“We decided to get married to strengthen our connection and to help each other and to protect each other as much as we can.”

Yaryna Arieva, Newlywed, Kyiv

Despite having to change her wedding plans and watch her husband ship off to war, one new bride says morale in Ukraine is strong.

“Everyone is laughing at the Russians. People here are making jokes,” Yaryna Arieva said on Thursday evening’s edition of “The Donlon Report.”

Arieva and her husband, Sviatoslav Fursin, were engaged Feb. 24, 2021 — exactly one year before Russia invaded Ukraine.

The couple planned on getting married in May, but as missiles dropped and convoys inched closer, they decided getting hitched now was the best thing to do.

“We had been living separately and we didn’t want to stay at home with our parents thinking of each other, not knowing what’s going on and being really nervous about each other,” the newlywed said. 


“Pretty close to the border, we feel that it’s still safe here.”

Olena Bobyk, housing refugees. Lviv

Olena Bobyk is housing refugees who fled from Eastern Ukraine to Lviv. She is one of many neighbors taking in families and fellow countrymen escaping the brutal shelling.

“They were woken up by the sound of missiles attacking their home close by, so they just felt a need to go ahead and to leave their hometown,” Bobyk said on “The Donlon Report.”

Bobyk says they do not want to leave the country and they feel safe in Lviv, where she says the electricity is still working.

“Thank Jesus, it’s still safe here in Western Ukraine. However, we hear sirens many times a day and we need to go to shelters in order not to be attacked.”

“We know exactly and realistically, what are we up against.”

Kira Rudik, Ukrainian parliament member, KYIV

Kira Rudik is a Ukrainian member of Parliament who has taken up arms in the fight against Russia.

“The plan that we have is just to win time,” Rudik said on “The Donlon Report.” “Time for ourselves to get ready, and to prepare better, time for the sanctions to start actually working and create destabilization in Russia, and time for us pushing our allies to finally get us the no fly zone.”

She wants NATO to do more to support Ukraine.

“Please bend the rules so that Ukraine will stand because we understand that moving forward, you are very right, we could fail,” Rudik said. “And we don’t want that, we have seen what Russian soldiers can do to us when there was war on the east. We don’t want that.”

“It is a people’s war.”

Sviatoslav Yurash, Ukrainian parliament member, Kyiv

Ukrainian Parliament member Sviatoslav Yurash says Russia troops are targeting locations full of civilians.

“Russians, when they are trying to take over Ukraine and take all these people who are not willing to just lay down and let the Russians take over their country, so the reality is that in Ukraine, where everybody is joining in in any way they can, Russians are targeting anyone,” Yurash said.

Yurash, who also worked as a spokesperson for Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his campaign, spoke with NewNation earlier this week. He pledged to defend his nation from Russia’s attacks, saying, “we will not let Mr. Putin destroy just because he wants to.”

“It’s really hard.”

Yuri Gorbachevskyi, on-the-run, Ternopil

Yuri Gorbachevskyi held out, thinking maybe the Russian invasion would end soon. But just a few days ago, he made the decision to pack up with his family in Kyiv and escape. He’s been documenting his journey along the way to the Hungarian border.

“I am in Ternopil, waiting to send to my family, my mother, my sister, with my nephews, abroad to the Hungarian border and after the processing they go west, maybe to Spain, farther from this war, farther from any danger,” Gorbachevskyi said on “Banfield.”

“People are ready to help with just whatever they have.”

Oleg Yakubiv, Lviv

Oleg Yakubiv, who lives in Lviv, is working with a local church to help people escape Ukraine for places including Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. He said what once served as a gathering spot for parishoners now serves as a place for refugees.

“There’s a lot of work going on, and I can see that a lot of Ukrainians have united to get this work done together. So, from what I can tell, Ukraine will not be the same after this will end, and the world will not be the same as well,” Yakubiv said.

Yakubiv said many churches have banded together to help provide food, shelter and safety to Ukrainians. Aside from basic necessities, they’re also offering other resources.


“(I want) to stay here and give birth to defender of Ukrainian land.”

Liudmyla Lukianets, Rivne

Liudmyla Lukianets is living in Rivne, a city in northwestern Ukraine of nearly 250,000 people. She is hiding in a makeshift bomb shelter that is in the basement of her apartment complex. On top of the immense day-to-day stress of wartime, Lukianets is dealing with the uncertainty of a difficult pregnancy.

“I’m on the third month of pregnancy right now,” Lukianets said during an appearance on “Morning in America” Tuesday. “And I had some problems with my pregnancy from the beginning. And it’s very difficult to me to be in this condition in this time.”

Lukianets shared with NewsNation a few photos of the shelter in which they hide. It is dimly lit, narrow and looks to be a very basic concrete structure with some basic benches and padding on the ground for a semblance of comfort. Blankets and winter clothes are used to stay warm.

“There’s this place is not very safe, because it’s just a basement,” she said. “And if our house were falling apart, we all will be in a trap. But there is no shelter for me that I can get very quick in my condition. So I have no choice.”

“We are calm and ready”

Sasha Golovkova, runs bomb shelter, kyiv

Just a few weeks ago, Sasha Golovkova was a web developer. Now she and her sister are running a bomb shelter in Kyiv for more than 200 people, where they may have to stay for weeks.

Inside what once was just a basement there is now bedding, food, water and a defense system where people prepare evacuation plans, help others get there and assign helpers to specific tasks. Sometimes they play music to lighten the mood.

“Young people feel that they have power inside of themselves to help other people,” Golovkova said. “They just do everything they can, and I’m just one among them.”

“You get used to it, in a sense.“

Michael Rud, Volunteer, Kyiv

Michael Rud said he returned home to Kyiv after the invasion started because he has family, friends and cats to take care of there.

While he’s been working as a volunteer so far, he said he’s considering taking up arms. In the meantime, he said air raid sirens and explosions are now a part of daily life.

“Like five minutes ago we had the air signals again that something is flying at us and I heard some explosions, but you know, you get used to this in a sense, because it happens 20 times a day,” he said.


“It’s very dangerous to transport food”

Dayana Pankova, attorney, Kharkiv

Dayana Pankova, a Ukrainian lawyer and journalist, decided to stay in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, and fight.

“A bomb hit a house very close to the house of my family that lives on the side of the city close to the airport, so I wouldn’t really call it safe,” Pankova said on “Banfield” Monday.

She said people in her city were living underground and struggling to transport food to those in need.

“I haven’t had my weapon yet, because I’ve been busy volunteering and helping people get some food because there’s a lot of issues with the food distribution, with medication,” Pankova said.

Speaking with NewsNation hours after the full-scale invasion began Thursday, Pankova said: “ I’ve built my life. So I don’t want to give up on this very easily.”

“They’re trying to bring in specialists that can deal with these kinds of injuries.”

Sky Barkley, U.S. medic and volunteer, Western ukraine

Sky Barkley, a medic with Here’s Hope Ministries, is in Ukraine working to bring specialist doctors into the country to help the wounded. He recently left the capital, heading west.

“In the last 24 hours as we were leaving, we are continuing to see a lot of civilians trying to get out of the city,” Barkley said Monday. “We actually left the city with a 78-year-old grandmother and granddaughter that had no other way out.”

On Friday, he told NewsNation that more humanitarian quarters need to be opened to keep people safe as they attempt to flee Ukraine.

“It’s crazy. I’m really sad that something like that is going on in my hometown.”

Kateryna Mykhalko, government relations manager, Western Ukraine

Kateryna Mykhalko, a Ukrainian government relations manager, fled Kyiv a day after Russia’s invasion. She’s now sheltering in Western Ukraine.

“I won’t leave the country because it’s my country,” Mykhalko said on “The Donlon Report” Monday. “And I don’t want to go to the border. And I’m not trying to go to Poland or any other country.”

Mykhalko says she worries about the family she left behind.

“My mother is in Kyiv, and she lives in the residential area, but it’s not safe anymore,” Mykhalko said. “I’m calling her, like, two times a day. And she’s saying that there are a lot of military and it’s sometimes hard to understand if it’s like Ukrainian forces, or it’s Russian invaders.”


“We’re really inspired and motivated because all ordinary people that are here are doing best they can.”

Mariia Shuvalova, literary scholar, undisclosed location

Mariia Shuvalova, a Ukrainian scholar and lecturer at the National University of Kyiv Mohyla-Academy, told NewsNation Saturday that she is working from a safe location to assist Ukrainians. Shuvalova says she is helping find legal aid for those who have been arrested, coordinating escape routes for those who want to flee and is fighting propaganda.

“This morning, we were terrified,” Shuvalova said. “We had a lot of misinformation and attacks. And it’s very sad to see all that war crimes that Russia is doing right now because they are bombing kindergartens. And in Kyiv, they bombed (a) children hospital.”

Shuvalova told NewsNation Thursday that she fled Kyiv as Russia attacked, but many of her young students over the age of 18 said they planned on joining the defense forces.


“It’s all-in war for us.”

Oleksandr Ivanov, political activist, Kharkiv

On the second day of Russia’s invasion, political activist Oleksandr Ivanov recalled sheltering with his 7-year-old daughter in the bathroom of his apartment located in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city.

“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 said.

He said Ukrainians need to defend their country.

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

“It’s really hard.”

Joel Wasserman, American living in Ukraine, Lviv

Joel Wasserman is from Rockville, Maryland. He’s been living in Ukraine for four years and says his girlfriend was in Kyiv when the invasion started. On Friday, he told NewsNation he moved from the capital to the western city of Lviv.

He said that the for the ATMs are long, the roads are packed and the border with Poland is crowded.

“It’s painful,” Wasserman said. “It’s enraging. It’s really hard. It’s really hard.”


“I’m just stuck in my apartment, not knowing what to do.”

Zoe Inutu, 27, student from Zambia

Zoe Inutu is in Zaporizhzhia, a city west of Donetsk, alone in her apartment. She said despite being urged to leave by her government in Zambia, Africa, she is unable to return home because transportation in eastern Ukraine has been shut down.

Inutu said she was initially unable to use her card to withdraw money from an ATM. That has since changed, but she said the lines are still very long as Ukrainians scramble to buy food and other necessities.

“We got the confirmation from our president today, the Zambian president, that we should evacuate from this place. But now, unfortunately, I cannot move out of my city because all the transportation to a different city has been closed up,” Inutu said.

“Osama bin Putin really does underestimate the Ukrainian army”

Taras Petro, American translator, Yavoriv

Taras Petro, a United States citizen and translator, said he woke up to the sound of an explosion Thursday. Petro arrived in Ukraine from Detroit earlier this year and was supposed to go back to the U.S. but told NewsNation on Feb. 15 that he decided to stay to be with family. He spoke with NewsNation again shortly after the invasion began, from Yavoriv, a city in Western Ukraine near Poland’s border.

“Shortly after the explosion, about an hour after that, there was a knock at the door of where I’m staying,” Petro said. “And they had two summonses for two of the military police officers that I’m living with to pack their go-bag. And they have two to three hours, and they’re being drafted to the war.”

“We are here and we will defend our country.”

Nazar Zinchuk, student, Lviv

Nazar Zinchuk, an economics student at Franko National University, said he is watching fellow Ukrainians buy weapons or flee the country as Russia’s invasion gets underway. But he’s staying.

“I was ready. And a year ago, and two years ago, and five years ago, I’m ready always to take the weapon and to go and fight for my country,” Zinchuk told NewsNation Thursday.


“We’re a nation of survivors”

Melaniya Podolyak, activist, Lviv

Activist Melaniya Podolyak said in the first hours of Russia’s full invasion that the people fleeing cities and towns in the northeast of Ukraine are seeking shelter with friends and family farther west.

As she takes cover in the building where she lives, Podolyak said she’s taking calls from media all over the world looking for updates from within the country.

While she said, “no one is asking for boots on the ground,” she hoped other nations would do more to intervene and end the Russian invasion, including targeting more Russian officials directly with sanctions.

“We survived two world wars, occupations, and now this — I think it’s not the last you’ve seen from Ukrainians,” Podolyak said.

“I need to go now and survive today”

Alex (last name withheld), student, Kyiv

Even as he prepared to head to a bomb shelter from his apartment in the center of Kyiv, Alex — who withheld his last name to protect his identity — said things seemed relatively calm in Ukraine’s capital shortly after the invasion began.

Saying he was worried for his parents, Alex said he didn’t plan to evacuate personally. While he’d prefer a peaceful solution, he said Ukrainians, “need to defend our ground.”

“I won’t say what I would do exactly, because I’m on TV now. But I could say that I wouldn’t work with Russian occupation,” he said.

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