The war found me in Kyiv nearly 15 months ago. Regardless of the events that unfolded, I remained loyal to my hometown and country, never even contemplating a move abroad, even for a brief respite. It was here that my child came into the world, born on the 7th day of the war. Here, I found a decent and fulfilling job, and rented a spacious and bright apartment. I can proudly boast that I made the most of the situation with which I was presented.

As the months passed, the war became the integral background to my daily routine, a twisted framework in which my life seemed to strangely fit in. Once I became accustomed to the fact that the war wouldn't abruptly end tomorrow, the day after, or even by the week's end, I was determined to continue with my life in the circumstances that faced me and not to put my plans and dreams on hold.

In May, I turned 28 and decided that it was time to make my long-held dream of celebrating my birthday in Rome, a reality. The thought of indulging in pasta and gelato, exploring the awe-inspiring sites of the once-mighty Roman Empire, climbing the steps of the Colosseum, visiting St. Peter's Basilica, and exploring the Vatican Museums had always fascinated me.

This year was the time to do it. I would fly to Rome without any hesitation, even though, because of the war, I would have to travel to a country that had not been ravaged by the Russians. So, I headed to Romania.

On May 15, I finally arrived in Rome. Little did I know that on the following night of May 16, Kyiv would be subjected to the most devastating missile attack since the beginning of the war. That night, Russia launched 18 missiles at Kyiv, including 6 hypersonic Kinzhal rockets.

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In the middle of the night, some sort of premonition woke me. I instinctively checked my Telegram app and immediately realized that something terrible was happening. I scrolled through my Instagram feed to discover that all my friends, who had never sought shelter during missile attacks before, were now trembling in underground parking lots.

 As my feelings of alarm grew, I messaged my mom and mother-in-law to ask what was going on. They replied that it was the scariest night since the war began. Their apartments were illuminated by the glow of air defence missiles, and the walls of the house trembled from the deafening roar. We would later jokingly refer to that night as "Star Wars."

Thankfully, all the Kinzhal missiles were intercepted, thanks to the American Patriot air defense system.

In that moment, an overwhelming sense of shame consumed me. I felt guilty for not being in Kyiv, for not experiencing that terrifying night alongside the people closest to me. I felt shamefaced that I had shared a photo of the Trevi Fountain on Instagram just the day before while now my compatriots were filled with panic and fear.

Since then, this feeling of guilt has never left me, especially as the shelling of the capital has continued as the Russians have launched dozens of missiles and attack drones towards Kyiv in the nights that followed. It prevented me from fully enjoying my Roman holiday. Each day, I yearned to return to Ukraine as soon as possible to free me from this nagging sense of shame. 

Now, I am back in Kyiv, a city that faces rocket attacks nearly every night. I find myself sleeping in the bathroom, sometimes falling asleep only after 4 a.m. once the shelling ceases, then waking up at 8 a.m. to go to work. Nevertheless, I am immensely grateful to be home, experiencing this ordeal alongside my fellow Ukrainians.

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Comments (2)
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You should feel guilty. How about doing what every male in Ukraine is doing, i.e fighting on the battlefield? Why should you be given a pass just because of your female chromosomes?
Hugh M.
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I hear you Alisa. I hear you Alisa's husband. I hear you Alisa's child.

That is why I, as an American, whose grandparents fought for the Freedom of Europe, and whose Ancestors fought for the freedom of the U.S.

And who simultaneously must fight for our Native American families.

Are with you for FREEDOM.

Slava Ukraine from America.