Today is the one-year anniversary of Russia’s brutal, unprovoked, full-scale invasion of Ukraine. To mark the occasion, Kyiv Post has collected 17 stories to try and convey the breadth and scale of the loss caused to Ukrainians caused by the Kremlin’s aggression.


Andriy Khilko, Kyiv

I had morally prepared my family for the war beforehand, so I bought household goods and other essentials on Feb. 23, last year. We went to bed late, at about 11:45 p.m., as my daughters still had lots of energy and weren’t ready to go to bed. At 4:30 a.m., a people's deputy called to tell me that the war had just started.

I woke my wife up and told her, "It's started." She was still half asleep and didn't believe me at first. She had never believed it could happen and we had constantly argued about the "odds." I didn't wake the girls.


Five minutes later, we heard massive explosions. Our apartment is on the eighth floor, so we heard them very clearly. The moment we came to the window, a fighter jet flew toward Vasylkiv, Kyiv region. Ten minutes later, we heard a missile (now we all know the sound those Kalibr cruise missiles make while flying) and saw explosions somewhere in the area of Zhuliany airport.

I had made all the necessary preparations, so we had everything we needed. At about 07:00 a.m., I went outside and saw long lines of people near closed drug stores and supermarkets. The ATMs had already been run dry. 

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Two weeks prior to Feb. 24, I had set up my own volunteer charity fund, so by the evening of Feb. 25 I was making preparations to launch it.

Generally, Feb. 24 was a day of phone calls with relatives and friends, organizational work for the fund, and driving across the city. I saw abandoned and destroyed cars on the roads. Several times I drove past cars riddled with bullets and shell fragments. In the Lukyanivka district of Kyiv, I heard bursts of machine-gun and rifle fire.

We all slept with our clothes on. I kept everyone on alert. At night, we ran to the shelter with our pajamas on. In a week, we somehow managed to adapt to the inconveniences.


I remember the morning of March 7. From 8:00 to 11:00, I counted 43 explosions. We live in the Svyatoshyn district [in northwest Kyiv], so we could hear almost all the horrible things that were happening in Bucha, Irpin and Hostomel. 

On March 9 or 10, I told my wife it was time to get packed. Until we left, we all made "Bandera cocktails" and put them on the balcony. We thought we could use them in case troops broke through to our building. My wife baked bread, called the relatives and did housework. The day we were due to leave, we were very anxious. I didn't tell my wife or any relatives which way I was going to travel (for security reasons). 

Some of our relatives objected to our decision to take the children abroad. They invited us to the countryside, but I refused. The journey was difficult and dangerous. At the Slovakian border I hugged and kissed my wife and daughters, left the car there, slung my bag across my shoulder and walked down the mountain road. The border crossing point was a minor one, so there weren't too many people, but it was difficult and long to get to Uzhhorod on foot. From there I took a train back to Kyiv.


It's really hard without my wife and children - I haven't seen them since they left. The girls are growing up. When I last saw them, the younger one was four. We talk almost every day. We make video calls several times a week, but I feel that they need their father. It's an incurable trauma for them.

My daughters want to come back. I often send them small parcels with their favorite toys they left behind in Kyiv. During video calls I sometimes walk from one room to another and around the apartment, so they can watch and recall. They already have friends abroad, but there are many Russians and pro-Russian locals in that country, so my elder daughter is bullied by teachers and students. We are trying to do something about it.

They want to come back, but they're afraid of bombs, missiles and explosions. During the first two weeks of the war, they shook with fear every time they heard a powerful explosion. I remember how I walked into their room and saw them huddling like kittens to my wife, all scared and stressed. That's why I decided there and then to rid my children of having to run to the shelter and jerk at every explosion.

My family will most likely come back after the "complete victory" that we're all looking forward to. We're moving toward it every day, and when that day comes, we'll need to make sure it's not a fake truce, because in a few years there could be war again. Yes, there are lots of problems abroad, but the mental health of children is priceless. We, their parents, are over 40 and our mental health is broken "beyond repair", so we shouldn't let them carry this burden and get used to it.

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