War Journal: Day 1, Laying Low

It has been exactly one year since the war in Ukraine escalated from mild skirmishes on the eastern front to a full out invasion of the whole country. At the time, I knew how important it would be to keep a journal of events, whether that was so I could remember and process it later, share the truth of what happened, or record our final days if something happened to us. I didn’t know this until later, but I was also 2 weeks pregnant. As we move through these difficult milestones, I will be sharing what I wrote. Any notes I have added later will be in parenthesis and italics, but for the most part this is the raw, unedited version.


Day 1 of the Russian invasion. We woke up this morning at 6am hearing explosions and car alarms. The news said it had already been going on for an hour. It was not constant. Just a few, every so often. But it was clear. We quickly packed our bag with some extra clothes, our icons, computer, and some food essentials. We called [some family and trusted friends] and let them know what was going on.

(As we packed, a tiny question entered my mind. Do you regret coming? There was absolutely no hesitation in my silent answer. The most peaceful yet resounding NO that filled my entire being. The future was uncertain. I could hear the city being bombed. And yet, even in that moment, hands shaking, I knew I would do it all again in a heartbeat.)

Dennis came and brought us to their house which was further west and in a small village. We said hi. It seemed so mundane and simple. But what else do you do at war? (Some people kept going to work, others stood and listened in stunned silence around us. We were moving so fast but it seemed like the rest of the world had stopped. “Emily, don’t worry,” Dennis told me. “It is not that serious, he is just showing his power, it will be over soon.”) As the morning developed we saw Russia was bombing all military bases in Ukraine. They hit almost every major city except Ternopil. Even Lviv was hit. Nowhere is safe. As of now the damages have been described as minimal and the Ukrainian army said they are still functional. Who knows the truth.

The eventual map of all the missile attacks on February 24th.

Galya invited the kids to her house. Their reactions are heartbreaking. Some are terrified. Others say they will fight with machine guns. Others haven’t grasped the seriousness of the situation. For others it is normal. Around 10am about 5 of them arrived and I started making crepes. (I felt so helpless. I didn’t know the language, the terrain, or what I could do to help. Then I realized none of us had eaten. I knew how to cook. It helped me stay busy and feel like I was in control.) Mitch, Dennis, and Garrick went out to the store to get food for the kids. Max, Dasha, and 2 of their friends/family arrived at 12:30. They had to go first to the YWAM base and then fight traffic to get here. We are laying low. We eat, we talk, and the kids play. We read the news and try to decide the best course of action.

It is strange. Moments of peace and then moments of panic. Every time a plane flies overhead, every time we hear a low rumble in the distance. Even the noises from the kids games or drums in the music. We are all jumpy.

Taking advantage of the quiet to spend time upstairs where it was warmer and more comfortable.

It is surreal. 1:40pm. We have moved to Dennis’ parents house. (They lived in a duplex style home together.) They have closer access to the basement. We have heard planes flying over head and even saw 2. Apparently there may be a battle nearby. We are prepared to run into the basement. The basement is flooding since it’s spring. (I later learned a pipe had burst.) Dennis’s father is trying to shovel the water away. His mother makes us tea. As Ukrainians do. Mitch, Dennis, and Garrick are stuck in traffic. They went looking for more supplies. Everyone is trying to leave. But to go where? Nowhere is safe.

According to LiveUA Map, Russian soldiers have seized the airport near us. This is terrifying. We have to get the kids out. But how? We don’t have a vehicle we can transport. Russians might set off more bombs in the area, in Puscha, now that they have control. Ukraine will try to push them back. We thought Puscha would be safer. We underestimated how quickly they would come. They launched missiles from Russia, from their submarines, people are saying. They got here so fast. I am praying that we can find a van and take people to Ternopil. Galya says she knows a big house there that has room for everyone. If we can get there in time.

Mriya (The Dream): the largest cargo plane in the world, destroyed at Hostomel Airport only a few miles away from us.

2:20pm. More people have arrived. Dennis and Mitch returned. Moments later we heard loud bangs. So we all fled to the basement. The floor is wet. And half is still covered in an inch of water. Nobody cares. There is no service down here so we can’t check the news and see what’s going on. The young kids are very scared, fighting back tears. Matfey (Galya and Dennis’s son, age 3.) keeps asking why. He wants to help. So innocent. You can see the despair in everyone’s eyes. Every time they start speaking in Russian I feel lost. Sometimes they forget to translate and I must ask.

Dennis carrying their young daughter Zoya out of the basement.
Matfey and some of the other kids making their way across the paving stones so our feet didn’t get wet.

3pm. Back in the house finally. Hopefully we won’t have to go back down soon. We need to make food for everyone. The guys are moving the wood and building materials out of the basement to make more room and have a place for everyone to sit. 

4pm. Everyone has been fed sandwiches. Galya passed out candy. The support from everyone online has been astounding. (Both people decrying the war on Facebook and standing with Ukraine, and the donations that started coming into our account before we had barely asked. Both brought us so much hope.) We went back to the basement again. It’s set up a lot nicer now. We can sit on panels of wood with blankets over them. And Dennis brought a heater so it’s not as cold. We are not sure if anything is happening or not. It seems relatively quiet but we are playing it safe.

You can hear an explosion at the 11 second mark.

We have been back and forth multiple times. Ironically the 3 youngest boys have toy guns and are playing with them to keep them calm. Kids in the youth group who are home with their families are reporting seeing tanks rolling through towards government buildings. That seems to be the main focus of the attack right now.

7:30pm. The hours have flown by so quickly and yet the day has felt forever. I am so tired. Right now there is a major battle at the airport, Ukraine is trying to take it back. It is only about 5 miles away (as the bird flies). We must get to Ternopil. But it is not safe to move either. How can this be happening? How can this be real?

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