Later that day on February 24th

We woke up a little later in the morning and immediately began to make plans for the future, if you could call it that, which has now shrunk to seconds.
Where to go and what to do?
There were several options: 
  • Poland
  • Country house
  • Stay in Kiev
  • Do nothing
Where to wait out the capture of the city, the horrors of war? How long will it last? Unanswered questions.
After breakfast, I decided to go outside. To see what is being done there, how the city lives. In general, it was a historic day, and if I had been aware of it then, I might have studied the life of Kievans in that terrible time in more detail. But I wasn’t up to it.
My wife sent me to the grocery store to buy food before it is swept off the shelves by other citizens. We thought that we should finally stock up on food, provisions, buy rice, pasta and everything that might be needed to stay at home during a long military siege and even during street battles. It was unclear how long the Ukrainian troops will last? How quickly Russian troops will enter the city? What will Ukrainians do and what will Russians who have entered the city do?
In the house chat, I read a message from one neighbor: 
  • “Don’t be afraid of anything, neighbors. I’m at my country house 40 kilometers from Kiev. Russian tanks are passing by us (how, already?), the Russians are not touching anyone. They wish us peace and have come to liberate us. Very soon everything will be fine and life will get better.”

The administrator immediately removed her from the chat. Apparently, as a pro-Russian participant, which went against his, at least, patriotic mood.

I really wanted to see what was happening in the city, on the streets of Kiev on the first day of the war? How do the people of Kiev behave? What does the city breathe? What are they talking about?
I left the entrance, walked down the street – nothing special. Even surprised a little: silence, calm, deserted. It was a little strange, I was expecting some kind of congestion of people, fuss.
I walked to the nearest supermarket. 
There were already significantly more people here. I wanted to collect groceries, but it was already swept off the shelves. I’m late. The shelves were almost empty.
I took something from the food, but not much. Got in line at the checkout.
I was surprised by the calmness of the people of Kiev. They stood in line without any excitement, silently. At the same time, the faces, of course, were not cheerful. There was tension, expectation of trouble.
After paying for my purchases, I went out onto the avenue leading out of the city. There was a long line of cars lined up on it, people were trying to leave the city.
Two circumstances surprised me. 
  • Firstly, that the cars were not packed with things. It seemed that people decided to go out of town only for a short time to have a good weekend. 
  • Secondly the tranquility of those leaving. No one tried to avoid a long traffic jam on the sidewalks, as it could be in case of nervousness, no one cursed anyone on nerves, did not urge. Everyone stood calmly in the traffic jam and waited for the resulting multi-kilometer traffic jam to start moving in its natural motion.
I hung around among onlookers and passers-by who were discussing the latest news. They talked about a jet plane flying over the city, about the possible development of events.
Nothing was clear.
Then I reached a small shop where I expected to buy products swept off the shelves in the supermarket. There’s already a queue lined up. I stood at the end of it.
  • A woman came up and asked: “Do you know where you can get a manicure now?”
Nervous laughter rolled in turn.
I specifically checked on the way here: is my favorite coffee shop open, where I liked to drink coffee. The door was locked. It was a sign of something extraordinary: the cafe never closed. Or rather, it was closed only for some days, when both owners, husband and wife, together went somewhere to Switzerland to go skiing, for example.
  • “If my favourite cafe is closed, then it’s really serious,” for some reason flashed through my mind at that moment, as if it was by this sign – the presence or absence of coffee makers – that it was possible in this world to judge the seriousness of the impending catastrophe.
Having bought third-rate cheap toilet paper and some provisions in the shop (the products here were already swept off the shelves before me), I returned home.
I saw a message from my Moscow friend. 
He recorded a video appeal in which he convinced me that the victory would be for the Ukrainians, Russia would face a cruel defeat.
It was hard to believe, to be honest, against the background of numerous news about the advance of Russian troops.
I have the impression of the Ukrainian army in the previous years of military operations in the Donbas as a weak military force. I fully assumed that Russian troops would take Kiev in 2-3 days, as they threatened.
At that time, I was still reading a pro-Russian telegram channel, in which hour after hour, minute by minute, the advance of Russian tanks on the territory of Ukraine was described. The reports indicated that Russian tanks were already somewhere on the way to Kiev. Their rapid progress terrified me.
  • In an hour or two we will already be in Kiev, meet us, – one Russian tankman bravura wrote to that telegram channel.
There was no reason not to believe his promise. There was zero reliable information
I decided to call my university friend in Moscow. He began to convince me again, that Russia’s military expansion makes no sense from the point of view of resources – it’s stupid from the very beginning and is doomed to failure.
Ukraine will win, you’ll see,” he assured me.
Even before the start of the war, he and I often and a lot discussed the possible consequences of the invasion and the development of hostilities. He convinced me every time, that any variant of Russia’s attack on Ukraine threatens Russia with defeat. 
  • “Russia will not be able to defeat Ukraine. She simply does not have the resources for this,” he told me.
I don’t know if he reached such a conclusion himself, or heard enough of such famous military experts like Arestovich and other military analysts, but then I heard this opinion many times already from the mouths of Ukrainian speakers, military specialists.
  • By the way, many of my Moscow acquaintances, as they later told me, on the first day of the war were very frightened by the Russian invasion that had occurred and were waiting from hour to hour for a nuclear strike from the West. 
And then, in the first days of the war, they ran to psychotherapists, feeling anxiety attacks for their lives, experienced panic attacks, while Ukrainians were hiding in bomb shelters,” one of my Russian acquaintances confessed to me. 

I expected my friends from Russia would start calling me in the morning. But, the phone was silent. There were no calls from them, no messages in messenger. Silence.

I didn’t understand their behavior. But I myself did not call them first – “not by status” a person who found himself in a country that was attacked by another country, to call those whose country was attacked. 

They’ll call later, I thought.

Going into the kitchen, I looked out the window. Outside the window everything was the same as usual: trees, houses, a kindergarten opposite, a TV tower in the distance. Everything is the same as always, but the war.
My heart sank. 
I was most afraid that the Russians would launch a massive rocket attack, and one of them would fly into our window. Or, even worse, they will launch a single rocket, and it will land directly individually in the window of my kitchen. I was very afraid of this.
I decided to fill the kettle with water, but it turned out that the water was turned off. There was no water in the faucet.

I was more worried about Russian missiles.

  • I propose to open our basement and use it as a bomb shelter, – I wrote in the house chat.
It was strange to write this. It was strange to discuss this. A bomb shelter? Are you serious? Yes, I’m serious. Despite the idiocy of the Russians starting the war, we were already living in the war. And the sky was a threat to us, civilians.
The neighbors supported the idea. 
Only it turned out that the key to the basement of our house is with a janitor who lives in another part of the city and does not answer calls.
  • I will open it, – my neighbor Alexey, a friend in raising children, wrote in the chat.
He went down to the yard with the Bulgarian, sawed down the lock and in 15 minutes wrote to the chat:
  • The basement is open.

Rockets? Airstrikes? A bomb shelter? In the 21st century? You’re crazy, my friend!!!

But no one laughed, on the contrary, the question of using the basement as a bomb shelter was raised later throughout the day by many neighbours.
However, it turned out that the basement of our house was not suitable as a bomb shelter: it stank strongly from broken sewer pipes, it was stuffy, it was impossible to stay for any time and, moreover, it was impossible to get out of it in case of a house collapse – there was no second exit from it.
Consequently, our basement could not be a refuge during the minutes of missile strikes.
It turned out that in the next house there is a real bomb shelter, occupied in peacetime under a cafe. It provided free entry to all those suffering, but it quickly turned out that there was not enough space there, there would not be enough for everyone.
Therefore, the issue of the bomb shelter remained open and in a short time became very popular among Kiev residents.

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