KHARKIV, UKRAINE – In a Ukrainian city battered by bombs since the start of the Russian invasion, Natalia Shaposhnik and her daughter Veronika live in a blue and yellow train car parked in a deep underground station underground.
For four long weeks, Shaposhnik and hundreds of people like her hid inside the station north of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.
With buildings destroyed or badly damaged on most of the property, the streets were eerily quiet and empty from the ground on Thursday.
Below the station, families were crammed together, most of them from the northern suburbs of the city, which had come under near-daily shelling.
Women and children slept side by side on the cold concrete floor, or went home in warmer carriages divided into smaller family rooms by curtains.
They go out just to walk the dog or get some fresh air, a soothing respite from the murky dampness underground.
“It’s not better than home but it’s livable,” said Shaposhnik, 36, who worked in a pet shop before the war.
Even in the ground, war is always present.
On Thursday, a Russian missile hit a metro station two stops away from where Shaposhnik lives with his daughter, killing and injuring several people.
Outside, while a crew cleared shrapnel from the site, a car loaded with wounded Ukrainian soldiers sped past.
A month since the start of the invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has viewed the war as an existential battle not only for his country but for Europe as a whole.
Russia called the invasion a “special military operation” and said its forces were not targeting civilians.
Shaposhnik said she still knows Russians who don’t believe civilians have been shot, despite the carnage over the past four weeks.
“I wrote them (that) I’d been living with my kids in the subway for a month and they didn’t believe me. They said ‘it’s your own fault, you’re responsible, it’s you, you, you ,” she said.
(Reporting by Thomas Peter and Vitalii Hnidyi; Writing by Mari Saito; Editing by Andrew Heavens)