KYIV, Ukraine – Olha and her husband, Roman, stand on a concrete pedestal, carefully avoiding shards and shards of glass, staring at the smoldering building containing the apartment they moved into a year ago.
A group of firefighters were trying to put out a fire that destroyed part of the structure, while emergency workers carried stretchers down the stairs from the eighth floor.
Olha and Roman chose the Lukianivka neighborhood in Kyiv because it is known as the “quiet center” of the Ukrainian capital, said 32-year-old Olha.
But on Sunday morning, they awoke to a series of explosions that sent them – and many other residents – out of bed, and a sense of relative safety has prevailed in the city since the Russians were driven out. its periphery in early April.
“In Ukraine, you can’t feel safe anywhere,” says Olha, who is afraid to give her last name.
Her mother, Nataliya, recently traveled to Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine, hoping for a respite from the “continuous” explosions that surged there last week.
“It was like a nightmare,” Nataliya, 63, told her daughter.
At least four Russian missiles hit the vicinity on Sunday morning, a day after a series of missile attacks across Ukraine. The attacks come as leaders of the Group of Seven richest democracies in the world prepare to meet in Germany, and Ukrainian officials say they believe Moscow is trying to send a message to Ukraine and its allies. Western allies.
Authorities say a 7-year-old girl has been rescued from the rubble in Kyiv. Her father was killed, and her mother, a Russian citizen, was wounded. The top three floors of a nine-story building in the Shevchenkivskyi district were destroyed, they said.
Vitali Klitschko, mayor of Kyiv, said the airstrikes were an act of “symbolic aggression” ahead of a NATO summit in Madrid this week.
But for ordinary people living in quiet neighborhoods like Lukianivka, fear and destruction are not symbolic.
Oleksandra Kvitko, a psychologist who lives in the vicinity, said she was terrified when she first heard the explosion. She took her two young children and hid in the bathroom of their apartment.
“We were sitting in the bathroom and there was another explosion – my walls and door shook,” she said. “I’m playing word games with the kids. I could hear the walls trembling and realized there was nothing I could do, so I just kept saying, ‘You start with A. You start with H.’ “
When she returned to her room, she screamed in her pillow. “It was a very worrying situation indeed,” Ms. Kvitko said. “But when the mother is calm, so are the children.”
Understanding the Russo-Ukrainian War
Russian missiles also attack Kyiv earlier this month, injuring at least one person. Before June, the last missile attack in Kyiv was in late April on the same apartment complex, hitting a building adjacent to where Roman and Olha lived. Both suspect that their building was attacked this time because it was near a weapons factory.
Ukraine had the edge after 50 missiles hit the country on Saturday. But Sunday’s strikes in Lukianivka, a neighborhood in the heart of Kyiv, stoked new fears in a city that has returned to life since April.
At the end of May, more than two million Ukrainians were living in Kyiv, according to the city’s government. About half have returned from abroad or from the West of the country. Many restaurants, cafes and shops have reopened, and the city’s grand Khreshchatyk Avenue is packed with people on sunny weekends.
On Sunday, the streets were still packed with people, but on social media some of Kyiv’s residents expressed anger – along with intense fear and defiance.
“Almost every Ukrainian from a war zone knows this incident: when you hear the whistle of a missile, you should start counting,” Marina Stepanska, an award-winning film director, wrote on Facebook. .
“Every second is approximately one kilometer. When it hits, you can tell if the explosion is far away or too close. When you’re away, you still have time for your coffee,” she continued.
Svitlana Royz, a renowned child psychologist, has written of the need to overcome pervasive feelings of “powerlessness, inability to control, and utter terror,” saying, “that is precisely what it is. Exactly what we cannot give them.”
“We have to learn to live in war,” she said. “Because we don’t know exactly how many more incidents there will be after that we need to stabilize ourselves.”
But inside the Lukianivka apartment complex, Nataliya was feeling under siege, like she had lost her home for the second time.
“When will it end?” she asked her daughter.
Nataliya, a doctor who asked not to use her last name, lived in an apartment north of Kharkiv’s Saltivka region, which was under heavy bombardment by Russian troops.
It fled west, but a few weeks ago finally decided to return to Kharkiv after Ukrainian soldiers pushed the Russian army out of the city. She decided she could get used to the sound of the usual explosions, but they became “constant” last week, so this time she fled to her daughter’s apartment in Kyiv.
Nearby, Dmytro Dzhizhinski was on the phone with his mother, trying to reassure her.
He woke up on Sunday morning to turn off the air conditioning in his apartment. When he dialed the number and looked out the window, his building was attacked. He ran into the hallway to find his neighbors and tried to take cover if another strike came.
Mr. Dzhizhinski, 26, is the head of analytics for a California-based company. Like many in Ukraine’s well-developed information technology industry, he fled to the west of the country when the war began before moving back to Kyiv a few weeks ago. He surveyed the recently built apartment complex of residential areas, cafes, shops and playgrounds.
“It would be even nicer,” he commented. “They’re still finishing things up before the war starts.”
He said he plans to stay at the complex for now.
“I think I’ll stay; My apartment is fine,” said Mr. Dzhizhinski. “But we understand it could happen again at any time.”
Oleksandr Chubko contribution report.