I’m hiding in Ukraine while my husband is out fighting. Every step feels like it could be fatal.

Anna, who is hiding in Ukraine during the Russian invasion.

  • As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, many Ukrainians are hiding at home.
  • One of them is Anna, a woman whose husband is fighting in the streets. Her daughter fled over the weekend.
  • This is her story, as told to writer Fortesa Latifi.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with a woman hiding in Ukraine during the Russian invasion. She asked to only go by her first name, Anna, in order to avoid repercussions, but her identity and location have been verified by Insider. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

My daughter is 24 years old, but she’s still a baby to me. When the war broke out in Ukraine after Russia’s invasion, I knew I had to get her out of the country.

My daughter had a train ticket set for Sunday, but as things rapidly got more serious in Ukraine, we didn’t want to wait to get her out of harm’s way. I drove her to the train station on Saturday morning, and it looked like an old movie of World War II. So many people were trying to get onto the trains, and they all had luggage with them. 

It was a first-come, first-serve kind of situation, and luckily, I was able to get my daughter onto a train. After she got on, only three more people were allowed after her. We’re lucky we were able to get her in at all. Now she’s in the Ukrainian city of Lviv and hoping to leave for Poland soon, but there are long lines at the border between Poland and Ukraine.

My daughter is my baby, and I had to keep her safe any way I could. That meant getting her onto that train. She wanted to stay with me, but I didn’t let her. She’s young. She’s just starting her life. There’s so much ahead of her. I don’t want her to be in danger here if she doesn’t have to be.

I didn’t put much consideration into going with her. I wanted to stay in Ukraine for my animals — two cats and one chinchilla — and my husband, who is in the Ukrainian army and out fighting in the streets. I also feel a bit safer because I live in a five-floor apartment building, and I’m on the second level. I would feel much less safe if I were in a skyscraper.

My husband is fighting for our country. He sends me messages when he can to tell me that he’s safe, or that he’s about to get some sleep. I’m terrified for him, but I’m also so proud. We’ve been together for 21 years, and all I can do is think about him and support him in this fight. 

I’m only human, so I do sometimes wish he was just home defending me, but I know he’s out there helping more people than just me. He’s doing the right thing, and my hope is that we all get to be together again soon. 

I feel alone because we’re all separated from each other, but I have my friends and neighbours, and I’m trying to be as useful as I can. One thing I’ve done is collect money to buy groceries for elderly neighbours who don’t have the energy to stand in store lines for hours. I also worked in media for 20 years, and I’m trying to help fight the information war by unwinding information, misinformation, and propaganda. 

I’m shocked that this is happening in 2022. Russian soldiers have bombed residential buildings, and even a kindergarten has been in the crossfire. It doesn’t feel possible, but it is possible. This is the reality we’re living in now, and I’m so grateful to all the Ukrainians who are fighting to keep our land and our country ours. 

As for me, I’m sleeping by the door of my apartment building because that’s the physically safest place. I message my daughter and my husband to make sure they’re safe, and I dream of a time after this, when we’re together again. I want to be able to have a normal vacation with my husband and to spend time with my daughter.

To be in Ukraine right now is like walking through a minefield with blinders on. We have limited vision, and every wrong step could be fatal. There’s no way to know what is most safe — staying where we’re at or trying to get to another region of Ukraine. 

When I find it hard to breathe — from the news alerts and the missile sirens sounding outside my window to the messages from my husband and daughter — I look down at the tattoo on my forearm. 

It says “find balance,” and when I look at it, I feel balance for one moment.

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