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The Russian roulette of the Ukrainian war

3 min read

The date 24 February 2022 will live in Ukranian memories for a long time. That day I woke at 4.30am, hearing the thunder of explosions in the distance. It was still dark outside but the morning sky was lit with mysterious flashes. Kyiv was being bombarded; the lights of the bombs reflected violently on the windows of the houses, leaving people in total panic.

Some ran out to the streets with half-sleepy children, bags filled with their most necessary things, and left in a hurry. However it was impossible to leave: the whole city was under attack and traffic jams paralysed car movements.

That morning the post office did not open for people to receive their parcels or pension cheques, supermarkets removed goods from the window display, people tried to buy water and food but no public services were available, adding to their difficulties. 

Martial law was declared and a curfew was announced, while people were struggling to run for their lives. There were no tickets available for sale at Vokzalna train station and restrictions meant people could not go to the train station without them. 

Even now, after almost five months of war, there is no safe place in Ukraine

The Metro was still working, but in the evening it started to be used as bomb shelter. Thousands and thousands of people in Kyiv and Kharkiv, with their children and pets, would live in the subway for months to come.

I was lucky enough to buy tickets from Kyiv to Vinnytsia, a city located roughly 260km southwest of Kyiv and half the distance to Odessa. There were a lot people in the station; everybody was watching the news, eyes fixated on their mobile telephones. News about the dead started to arrive and it was unfathomable to assess people’s emotional pain; their eyes were filled with tears. 

Women and children escorted their men to the war: they carried with them bags containing their whole life, heading for the unknown, with no clear plan of where to go, running away from the war and the shelling, not knowing if they would see their relatives again, or return to their city and their homes. Some people died in the first minutes of the war, others woke up under occupation, their citizenship documents or property deeds not valid anymore.

Nearly nine million Ukrainians were forced to leave their homes in the first week of the war, seeking a safe place in Ukraine or abroad. 

Now, after almost five months of war, there is no safe place in Ukraine – even in small villages. Rockets can fall on innocent civilians, maiming homes and devastating lives. Warehouses, airports, schools, all can be targets. Russian missiles can fly at any minute in haphazard directions and take everything from you. It is almost a simulation of the Russian roulette game, but it is not a show. In Ukraine it is a real game of death. 

In Sergeevka in the Odessa region in early July, at night without warning when people were sleeping, a rocket flew and 22 people are now dead. Sergeevka is a small city where there was no military infrastructure at all.

This war is directed at the civilian population of Ukraine. Every day new victims will fall because of the game of Russian roulette. Nobody knows where the next rockets will fly or fall tomorrow, on whose home, and who the unlucky one will be – the next Russian roulette victim. 

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