Last Sunday, Kyiv was a buzzing European city with hip cafes, artwork at every corner and fresh sushi available on demand at midnight. Now, it’s a war zone.
Sirens blasting through the city, the unmistakable loud bangs of explosions and strikes. The transformation inflicted on the city by the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been surreal.
Just a week ago, Dniprovsʹkyy Park was full of runners and cyclists taking advantage of the sunny weather to get their Sunday workout done.
The traffic-free park sits on an island across the river from the old town, its banks lined by sandy city beaches where kids are normally running around, watching the ducks swim by.
In the historical Mariinskyi Park families were strolling around, with kids enjoying the park’s playground that features large boat-shaped monkey bars.
Now, the same city is reeling from a steady stream of news of yet another terrifying incident. A six-year-old boy killed in heavy gunfire. A high-rise apartment building being hit. The dam of Kyiv reservoir destroyed. The streets are deserted, the sense of dread hanging in the air.
Many have fled the city, encouraged by the authorities to go while there still was a chance. The state railway company has been dispatching extra trains heading to the west for days now, Kyiv’s main train station full of families hoping to get onto the next one.
The same people who were happily shopping in fashion stores lining Kyiv’s Boulevards, dining at trendy restaurants are now hunkered down in basements, underground parking lots and subway stations.
Instead of hanging out with friends, enjoying the sunshine, they are now sleeping on the floors, trying to calm their children that don’t understand why they can’t go to kindergarten.
Despite the shock and suffering brought in recent days, Kyiv’s residents are showing incredible resolve and defiance.
Within hours after the invasion started, more than 18,000 have responded with a call to defend the city, collecting their firearms from authorities, according to Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov.
In the hotel where many western journalists are staying in the city center, the staff, who are now staying there instead of being at home with their families, are alternating between distributing blankets and water bottles in the bomb shelter and serving four different types of egg dishes at the buffet breakfast.
And Kyiv’s roads once clogged with heavy traffic are now empty. The electronic signs that were displaying traffic updates just last week are now showing a very different message: “Glory to Ukraine!”