Dima, a software engineer, living with his wife, Tetiana, and their two cats, Scotty and Pixie, provides us with an intimate description of their escape from the Ukraine’s capital Kyiv when the bombs started to crash nearby. He first heard the sounds of bombs exploding on the morning of February 24, 2022. He was lying in bed. Perhaps he was snoozing but he immediately jumped out of bed and began packing. It was an instinctive decision to get out.
His wife, a good sleeper, hadn’t woken up. He woke her as gently as possible to try and keep her calm. She panicked because she realised that they were under attack. Their car had half-full tank of petrol (gasoline). The cats, Scotty and Pixie are both full-time indoor cats living in their apartment.
That’s important because it means that they were attuned to living a confined and controlled life inside quite a small space. This would make, for them, the escape more stressful. They did have a couple of cat carriers which certainly helped. I have noticed that many evacuees from Kyiv and other cities have been carrying their cat or cats in their arms or in handbags. It looks desperate and dangerous. But the cats have looked calm.
They decided not to leave immediately because everybody else was and the roads were jammed with cars. Dima decided that if they left immediately, they’d use up all the petrol waiting in queues. Dima realised that they had missed a window of opportunity to leave before the bombing started. He said: “if you lose this window when you should move, then it becomes really hard for you to move.”
The roads were clearer the next morning and so they decided to go. They placed Scotty and Pixie into their carriers and drove 20 miles south to friends in Vasylkiv. The short journey took two hours because of three military checkpoints. On arriving the bombing started at night. A military base 3 miles away was attacked about four times in three days with the bombing starting at about 10 PM.
Following the bombing there was shooting on the ground. The stress built up again because they never knew whether a bomb would fall on them. They did their best to put it out of their minds by living as normal a life as possible but as you can imagine normal life wasn’t possible.
After three nights of air strikes, they decided to move further west and headed for a small railroad town in central Ukraine where they could stay with Tetiana’s grandparents. The obstacle was getting gasoline. They travelled with their Vasylkiv friends in a two-car convoy. The first task was to buy gasoline. Without it they simply couldn’t achieve their objectives.
They’ve managed to find gas station where the owner demanded cash payments. Their spirits were lifted when they had a tank full of gas and were able to commence their journey to central Ukraine. All the time their cats were skittish and anxious about the loud sounds in a strange world. And of course, they were confined to their carriers for long periods. The stress went right through the family.
He said that Scotty and Pixie are “not really adventurous. They were living in apartments throughout their entire life”. They found a bubble of peace, as the Insider journalist describes it, at their new temporary home in central Ukraine. Things were pretty normal there. They even managed to find an open coffee shop.
The Ukraine war is confined to the edges of Ukraine, in the north, east and south. These are the areas being attacked by the Russians as they invade Ukraine and gradually move towards the centre. Central Ukraine and the West is relatively quiet.
In the meantime, Dima was desperate to do something tangible to help his country. He wanted both to protect his family, his wife and his two cats while also fighting the Russians.
For the time being his family and his cats are safe but he is not sure for how long. The world knows that around 2 million, mainly women and children, have fully evacuated Ukraine into adjacent countries, primarily Poland, to escape the devastation inflicted upon this country by the Russian invaders.
I don’t know, but I would speculate that Dima may decide that Tetiana and their cats are better off following that course of action, to leave the country, while he can then return to Kyiv to help defend the capital. The capital must not fall. It is well defended. The fight for Kyiv will start soon.