Wait, Fear, Sing: A Night Sheltered in Ukraine | Radio WGN 720

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — When children start crying, adults start playing Ukrainian folk songs or making up fairy tales to dispel fear. Food and water are sometimes scarce. Everyone hopes for peace.

These are the vagaries of life in makeshift shelters around Ukraine, where families try to protect and make the conditions bearable for their young and old amid the distant sound of bullets, missiles or shells flying. ‘outside.

Hundreds of thousands of citizens rushed to spend another night on Kiev’s metro system as air raid sirens wailed on Sunday night. Among those who have taken refuge in shelters, some Associated Press journalists testify to how ordinary Ukrainians are coping with the war that is tearing their country apart, like piano teacher Alla Rutsko.

“A terrible dream… It seems to me that all this does not happen to me. The eyes see, but the mind refuses to believe,” said Rutsko, 37, sitting on an air mattress in the Pecherskaya metro station. from Kyiv.

“The fourth night, I can even sleep and dream,” she said. “But waking up is particularly difficult.”

She concentrates her thoughts on her grand piano, and her fears of losing it – “an excellent instrument, inherited from my grandfather, which survived the last war”.

Fighting continues to rage in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, where Ukrainian forces have so far prevented the Russian military from taking the strategic Sea of ​​Azov stronghold.

“God forbid rockets to hit. That’s why we gathered everyone here,” said local volunteer Ervand Tovmasyan, who helped organize a shelter in the basement of a city gymnasium. young son clung to him.

The workout equipment lining the walls contrasts sharply with the revised purpose of the gym. The shelter has experienced shortages of drinking water, food and fuel for generators since fighting began last week, so local residents are bringing what they can for supplies.

Many shelter residents remember the 2014 bombings, when Russian-backed separatists briefly captured the town. Anna Delina survived this and had two children. Now she does her best to comfort them with soothing words and hugs as they cuddle under blankets on the cold gym floor.

“Now the same thing is happening, but now we are with children,” she said.

Countless human moments shaped by war unfold across Ukraine.

In Kramatorsk, in the east of the country, a couple kiss on a train platform before the woman boards a westbound train, hoping for safety. The refugees collapse from exhaustion after crossing into Poland.

As the capital waits for the expected Russian onslaught, the platform of Kiev’s Pecherskaya metro station where residents sleep is lined with prams interspersed with animal carriers.

At first, authorities banned pets, but then turned a blind eye. Anxious cats and dogs huddle next to their owners.

Denis Shestakov, a 32-year-old architect, invented a fairy tale to allay the fears of his 5-year-old daughter, Katia.

“But how do you explain that to a dog? He started losing his fur due to stress,” he said.

“You can get used to a nightmare,” he said, trying to ignore her. “And it’s also a nightmare.”

Despite the shortages, lack of privacy, and all the challenges that come with living on an underground railroad platform, complaining is hard for families.

“It’s much more difficult for the soldiers at the front, it’s inconvenient to complain about the icy ground, the drafts and the terrible toilets,” said Irina, 74, who did not want to give her opinion. Last name. His grandson Anton is fighting in eastern Ukraine.

The internet works most of the time and everyone reads the news. Belarus’ potential participation in the war alongside Russia has become one of the most discussed topics.

“Oh, Ukrainians, Belarusians and Russians can hardly be called brothers now,” said Dmitro Skorobogaty, 69, an engineer. Then he added, “although you can’t choose your loved ones.”

Citizens are constantly warned that Russian saboteurs are causing panic in Kiev.

Squads of police descend on the metro station, check documents, distribute water and, among other things, inform people if it is safe to exit.

Amid the din of parents singing folk songs to their children, foreign students from Africa join other Ukrainians in singing the melodic national anthem: “Ukraine is not dead yet, Glory to the Ukrainian!”

A glimmer of hope is still nourished by those who take refuge.

“There is hope (for peace negotiations) because everyone wants peace, and some outcome so that civilians are not killed,” said Delina, the mother of two young children.


Chernov reported from Mariupol, Ukraine.

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