‘Worst sunrise of my life’: Ukrainians wake up to destruction

Feb 25, 2022
Big explosions were heard before dawn in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa as world leaders decried the start of an Russian invasion that could cause massive casualties. Source: Getty

At dawn on Thursday, February 25, Ukrainian’s strained efforts at normality were shattered. 

Missile fragments piecing ceilings across Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. A Russian attack, after weeks of rhetoric and warning signs, had hit home. 

The “full-scale” invasion saw Russian troops and tanks coming in from multiple directions, in a move that could rewire the world’s geopolitical landscape. 

Ukraine’s government pleaded for help, as civilians piled into trains and cars to flee.

“I heard noise and woke up. I realised it sounded like artillery,” Mikhail Shcherbakov, a Kharkiv citizen, said. He jumped from the couch and ran to wake his mother, and something exploded behind him.

Smoke engulfed cities, even ones well away from sporadic conflict in the country’s east.

 

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“Today I had the worst sunrise in my life,” said another Kharkiv resident, who gave her name only as Sasha. She rushed to her balcony and realised the sounds that had woken her weren’t fireworks.

Further down the border, a once normal morning commute transferred into chaos. Lines of cars waiting at fuel stations while others were fleeing from the city’s grey capital, Kyiv.

Some panicked while others kept to routine, with annoyance. 

“I’m not afraid. I’m going to work. The only unusual thing is that you can’t find a taxi in Kyiv,” one resident complained, as air raid sirens wailed.

Many Ukrainians seemed unsure how to react. Kyiv’s main street, Khreshchatyk, swelled with anxiety as people checked their phones, others walked their dogs or waved at friends. 

“I’m not scared at the moment. Maybe I’ll be scared later,” resident Maxim Prudskoi said.

 

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Elsewhere in the capital, a woman named Anna Covnya, was terrified as she watched as soldiers and police removed shrapnel from an exploded shell. 

“We have lost all faith,” she said. “Until the very last moment, I didn’t believe it would happen. I just pushed away these thoughts.”

In Mariupol, the Azov Sea port city saw a similar scene of mixed routine and fear. 

Some residents waited at bus stops as if on their way to work, while others rushed to escape the city that is only 15 kilometres from the front lines. 

At a supermarket, retiree Anna Efimova worried about her mother, who she said was busy stocking her basement with supplies. “There’s nowhere to run, where can we run?” she said.

As the day went on, alarms rose across the country, people crowded grocery stores, residents in Kharkiv inspected fragments of military hardware scattered across children’s playgrounds. 

Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko has called on the city’s three million residents to stay indoors unless they worked in critical sectors, urging everyone to prepare go-bags with necessities such as medication and documents. 

 

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For weeks, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tried to moderate Russia’s aggression, but Putin continued to ignore the global condemnation and cascading new sanctions, unleashing the largest ground war in Europe in decades. 

Threatening any country trying to interfere with “consequences you have never seen.”

Thursday, February 24, the President imposed martial law. It was at that moment Ukrainians realised that life as they knew it, was changing. 

“I feel panic, scared and excited. I don’t know who I should ask for help,” said Kyiv resident Elizaveta Melnik.” We didn’t believe this situation would come.”

Those living in the western city of Lviv, near Poland, began lining up outside gun shops as they were encouraged by the government to join the national defence.

“We are defending and not attacking,” said one resident, who gave his name only as Yuri. 

“This is our land, and we will fight to the last.”

Ukraine’s Health Minister Viktor Lyashko says 57 Ukrainians have been killed as a result of the Russian invasion, and 169 more were wounded.

 

More to come as this horrifying story develops.

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