‘Cheap wine for Molotovs’ and ‘trains full of cats’ — first days of Ukraine war

In the first weeks of the invasion of Ukraine, regular people were plunged into chaos with frantic preparations and desparate bids to escape commonplace nationwide.

In those early hours and days no one knew what to expect as Russian force stormed into the country, into its cities and into peoples’ homes.

Speaking toIntelligencerless than a month after the invasion, siblings Leonid, 19, and Nasta, 21, explained how they never gave the idea of leaving their home in Kyiv much thought, despite the capital being one of the main invasion targets in the first days of the war.

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They said they would stay and fight.

Leonid said: “I saw a warplane for the first time in my life on the way to the supermarket.

“The shelves were quite bare, but I bought four bottles of wine in case we need to prepare Molotov cocktails.”

Nasta added: “It was the cheapest wine — we just poured it away.

“Sirens went off five times throughout the day. We live on the top floor of an apartment building, which is very unsafe during air strikes, but nearby we have a spacious parking garage as a shelter with power outlets and restrooms and okay internet.

“We can bring our cat.”

People’s pets were a common theme in the early days of the invasion, with some taking them to evacuate and others forced to leave them behind.

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A 27-year-old Pilates instructor, Anastasiia Viekua, experienced chaos as she tried to reach the relative safety of Lyviv in the country’s west from Kyiv.

Scrambling to try and get on an earlier train she explained how she, “took gifts from my father and from some people whom I might never meet again,” as well as clothes from Ukranian designers.

“I don’t know when I will be able to wear an evening dress, but I wanted to take it with me,” she told the publication.

By pure chance, they managed to get on the train, but inside the feeling was strange.

“There were so many animals in the carriage,” she said

“Some cats ran away from their owners, and people were looking for them throughout the night.

“Usually the journey takes eight or nine hours, but for us it was 14 hours. Nobody was sleeping. Everybody was awake, checking the news. We were like zombies.”

Kyiv-based artist Vika Zavhorodnia, 30, explained the feeling of leaving his flat.

“My friend Ilya invited me to come stay with him, so I packed a few sweaters and underwear.

"My favourite band is Queen, and I’d painted a huge picture of Freddie Mercury that sits right above my piano, so as I left, I said, ‘Freddie, please guard my flat!’”

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