Air raid sirens, bomb shelters, tanks rolling through the streets of downtown – those all sound like things that can only be found in a high school history book. But for the first time in decades, these are things taking place in real time in eastern Europe.

As an American, it’s hard to imagine the terror the Ukrainians have been feeling since Russia invaded their country on Thursday, February 24. Many were unable to leave the cities that were under attack for various reasons. Here’s a sampling of reports from those still enduring Russian firepower and uncertainty, as published on USA Today.

February 24th: “Everyone was talking on the phone, even me. I was talking to my mom. Some people were crying…In the morning, everyone was just scared of what was going to happen. Now everyone is scared of what is happening right now,” reported a Ukrainian resident who wished to remain unidentified in order to protect their family’s privacy. “I’m staying calm as much as I can, not to panic, but the further it goes, the more difficult it is…I have nowhere to go. I don’t want to go, and also I have nowhere to go. Donetsk was my home. I left there…Also, because I’m Ukrainian I cannot leave right now. That’s not what I think Ukrainians should do.” 

The Ukrainian government declared martial law soon after the battle began and ordered all men aged 18-60 to remain in the country to help fight the Russians. Many men escorted or sent their wives and children across the border to neighboring Poland, Hungary, and other nations that welcomed refugees with a place to stay and eat. Some refugees drove their own cars, took trains or buses, or walked across the border while pushing baby strollers. 

February 25th: “They just started shooting. It’s scary, you don’t know where it’s going to go. 10 min ago there was a lot (of shooting); many rockets. It’s silent now, and we are waiting…I have my car downstairs full of gas. I put my documents, money and some stuff in a little bag…Maybe I will go to the center of Ukraine. Somewhere where it is more safe…right now I can only go through Kyiv because it’s blocked any other way. Either by Russian troops on one side, or (on another road) the bridge was blown up to keep Russian troops from going over to Kyiv. So, I have only one way out from my city,” said Konstantin Novikov, a yoga teacher living outside of Kyiv. 

The ease of transmitting information across the country and around the globe has never been more apparent than in the coverage of the unfolding way on Ukraine. Here’s what Novikov reported the following day. 

February 26th: “I understand how important it is now to cover everything that is actually happening. Thanks to our military, we are already holding out for the third day. The people are united like never before…I just got an air raid alert – thanks to the notification system, information comes quickly. I’m going to the bomb shelter. 

While average civilians sometimes had a choice about whether and when to leave, hospitalized citizens could not safely evacuate once the Russian invasion began. A public hospital in Chernihiv City was home to 18 kids with cancer who couldn’t leave via ground transport. Their moms were also with them, along with about eight staffers. 

February 27th: “…we need to evacuate kids from here because supplies of drugs and food are only going to last us four to seven days…We can only evacuate kids by air but we don’t control the air (space) and we can’t use cars or buses because we don’t have green road to Kyiv, and there is a battle in Kyiv…We are a little bit tired, but we are all very angry. We decided to, whatever it costs, protect our kids. And if we need to we will die here,” said Roman Romanov, a volunteer helping take care of the kids in the hospital. 

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