Last Sunday Kiev was a bustling European city with trendy cafes, artwork on every corner and fresh sushi available on demand at midnight. Now it’s a war zone.
Sirens sound across the city, the unmistakable bangs of explosions and strikes. The transformation inflicted on the city by the Russian invasion of Ukraine was surreal.
Just a week ago, Dniprovskyy Park was full of runners and cyclists taking advantage of the sunny weather to do their Sunday training.
The traffic-free park sits on an island across the river from Old Town, its shores lined with the city’s sandy beaches where children normally run around, watching ducks swim by.
In the historic Mariinskyi Park, families strolled, with children enjoying the park’s playground which features large boat-shaped monkey bars.
Now the same town is reeling from a constant stream of news of another terrifying incident. Six-year-old boy killed in heavy gunfire. A residential tower affected. The Kiev reservoir dam destroyed. The streets are deserted, the feeling of dread hangs in the air.
Many fled the city, encouraged by the authorities to leave when there was still a chance. The national railway company has been sending extra trains west for days, with Kiev’s main station packed with families hoping to board the next one.
The same people who happily shopped in fashion stores lining Kiev’s boulevards, dined in trendy restaurants, are now holed up in basements, underground parking lots and metro stations.
Instead of hanging out with friends, enjoying the sun, they now sleep on the floor, trying to calm their children who don’t understand why they can’t go to kindergarten.
Despite the shock and pain of the past few days, the people of Kyiv are showing incredible determination and defiance.
Hours after the invasion began, more than 18,000 people responded to 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 stay in the city center, staff, who now stay there instead of at home with their families, alternate between handing out blankets and bottled water in the shelter anti-aircraft and serving four different types of eggs. buffet breakfast dishes.
And Kiev’s roads once congested with heavy traffic are now empty. Electronic signs that displayed traffic updates last week now display a very different message: “Glory to Ukraine!”