My girlfriend and I bought a new mattress for our apartment in Kyiv. We used it to cover the window when the shelling began.

My girlfriend and I bought a new mattress for our apartment in Kyiv. We used it to cover the window when the shelling began.
My girlfriend and I bought a new mattress for our apartment in Kyiv. We used it to cover the window when the shelling began.

Ivan Oleskii in April, engaged on refitting vehicles for Car4Ukraine.Ivan Oleksii

  • An as-told-to photograph diary of life in Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24, 2022.

  • Ivan Oleksii, an esports analyst from Kherson, defined how the warfare recast his life.

  • In the final yr, he spent lengthy nights spent in bomb shelters, contributed to the warfare effort, and acquired engaged.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine started on February 24, 2022.

In the final 12 months, Ukrainian cities have been lowered to rubble, hundreds of thousands have been displaced and turn into refugees, and Russia and Ukraine have suffered tens of hundreds of casualties in the preventing.

All Ukrainians’ lives have been modified in methods they might have struggled to conceive a yr in the past. 

This diary relies on conversations, edited for size and readability, with Ivan Oleksii, 26, an esports analyst dwelling in Kyiv together with his girlfriend when the warfare began. He now converts civilian vans into battle autos for the Ukrainian military. He spoke to Insider’s Bethany Dawson. 

February 2022

Three images together, the left image is a mattress propped against a window in a Kyiv apartment. The middle and right photo show the inside of a bomb shelter.

Three pictures collectively, the left picture is a mattress propped in opposition to a window in a Kyiv apartment. The center and proper photograph present the inside a bomb shelter.Ivan Oleksii

That is the first day of the warfare. In fact, we did not actually know what to do when the warfare began, and so we had a makeshift strategy to maintaining ourselves secure in the center of an energetic warzone.

The left photograph exhibits mine and my now-fiancée’s apartment in Kyiv. We’d spent months refurbishing it, had lastly began shopping for furnishings, and had been making ready to transfer in. The very last thing we wanted was a mattress and a mattress, however the invasion had damaged out earlier than we might use it.

As the warfare began and shelling started raining down, we had been conscious that if our window blew up, it might severely injure us — or worse.

So we thought, if we could not sleep on our mattress, it might not less than save our lives.

You’ll be able to see the balloon I gave my fiance on Valentine’s Day, and simply ten days after, we had to put a mattress subsequent to the window to make certain we did not die.

We solely stayed in Kyiv for three days of the warfare. We spent most of this time hiding in bomb shelters and planning on how to maintain secure — how to survive.

After three days underground, it grew to become clear that we might want to flee to a safer a part of the nation. Quickly we discovered a house in Boryslav, west of Lviv.

March 2022

The start of Ivan's work to support Ukrainian troops, in March.

The beginning of Ivan’s work to help Ukrainian troops, in March.Ivan Oleksii

At the begin of the warfare, we had been utterly misplaced. We did not know what to do or how to cope. However after a couple of weeks, many people sat up and thought, “OK, we have now to do one thing.”

Nonetheless, I could not battle. Not due to bodily limitations, however as a result of I did not have any expertise preventing, and I simply would have been a simple goal.

I knew I might do extra with a laptop computer than with an AK-47.

So the first initiative I labored on was, the place we arrange Amazon want lists to provide Ukrainian troopers with items that may maintain them alive on the entrance line.

This picture was from the finish of March when the first orders began flooding in. You’ll be able to see piles of beneficiant donations behind me and Juliana, who runs To Fulfil a Dream, an NGO that gives help and help to Ukrainian refugees and our troopers.

April 2022

Ivan Oleskii, left, with his fiancée and her family in a café in April.

Ivan Oleskii, left, together with his fiancée and her household in a café in April.Ivan Oleksii

Right here I am with my — at this level, to-be — fiancée and her mother and little sister. This was the first time in months that we might strive to get pleasure from some type of normality.

It felt actually unusual to be sitting in a café subsequent to the home windows, a a part of the room you usually would keep away from.

It was such a novelty to drink espresso and have cake, even in Truskavets, a metropolis far-off from the energetic preventing.

Actually, it felt superb, it was a breakthrough in life in a warfare. However it was nonetheless scary, nonetheless harmful. There was nonetheless the voice in your head saying, “That is loopy, get out of right here.”

However both approach, you had to strive to get again to regular, as a result of if you happen to stay scared each single day, you may simply burn from the inside.

Could 2022

Ivan proposed to his girlfriend in May.

Ivan proposed to his girlfriend in Could.Ivan Oleksii

In Could, I acquired engaged to my girlfriend of seven years, Natalia.

I was initially planning to suggest to her at an Think about Dragons live performance that was supposed to be held on June 3, however that was cancelled for apparent causes.

I proposed at house as a substitute, in our apartment as simply a small shock. Although it may not have been what I envisioned, I wished to do it then slightly than proceed to wait by the warfare.

I truly had a photograph of the actual ring I wished in my pocket earlier than the warfare began, and I had been ready for a good second to go forward and purchase it, and to suggest. However when the warfare broke out, I realised I had no thought when this good second would come about, so I determined to suggest with out ready.

The warfare has made it so that you now go after what you need. You do issues now with out a delay as a result of now there’s a actual likelihood that the subsequent day, you may be hit by a rocket. Now you’ll be able to’t stay life on pause.

June 2022

Ivan's fiancée in the summer time.

Ivan’s fiancée in the summer season.Ivan Oleksii

This photograph exhibits Natalia and a pug we had been taking care of for a pal. For us, we took summer season to strive and get pleasure from our lives. Conflict was nonetheless raging, however we wished to discover happiness in these occasions.

July 2022

Ivan taking his to-be sister-in-law out for a walk in the Ukrainian countryside.

Ivan taking his to-be sister-in-law out for a stroll in the Ukrainian countryside.Ivan Oleksii

We’re very fortunate that we stay close to the Carpathian Mountains, so we’re surrounded by pure magnificence and can escape the actual world for a minute when we would like.

In these occasions, it was very nice to simply exit and really feel regular.

And sure, even throughout a warfare, a 10-year-old will probably be grumpy about being dragged out on a stroll.

August 2022

An award presented by the Ukrainian defense minister to the Car4Ukraine team in August.

An award offered by the Ukrainian protection minister to the Car4Ukraine group in August.Ivan Oleksii

This photograph was an extremely big day for me and my group. I’m a part of Car4Ukraine, a corporation that turns vehicles into vans for the Ukrainian navy to use.

In August of 2022, the Minister of Protection gifted this medal to Roman Hapachylo, the vice chairman of our group, who acts as the face of it all.

It felt superb that not solely had we discovered a approach to assist the individuals preventing for our nation straight, however our nation acknowledged us for that work.

It was a second the place, even in such a darkish time, you knew you had been doing the proper factor.

September 2022

Half of the people working on Car4Ukraine gather in September to celebrate 100 refitted cars.

Half of the individuals engaged on Car4Ukraine collect in September to have a good time 100 refitted vehicles.Ivan Oleksii

Whereas we celebrated Car4Ukraine in August, that did not cease when September rolled round.

This month we marked the manufacturing of our hundredth truck to be despatched to the Ukrainian navy.

A great deal of individuals from the Car4Ukraine household got here collectively to have a good time. This was roughly half of the individuals concerned in the undertaking, everybody from making our stickers to putting in machine weapons onto the backs of tanks.

It was superb to have a look at the final seven months and notice that we made nice waves in supporting the Ukrainian navy.

With the good climate, and the unity between all the individuals and guests, the occasion felt like a gentle in the darkness. It was a type of moments when we realized that Russia had no likelihood.

October 2022

Ivan and his fiancée return to their Lviv apartment to find it surrounded by anti-tank obstacle defense.

Ivan and his fiancée return to their Kyiv apartment to discover it surrounded by anti-tank impediment protection.Ivan Oleksii

This photograph was a actually essential second for my fiancée and me, as it was the first time we would returned to Kyiv since we fled our apartment on the third day of the warfare.

As we stood at the entrance to our apartment complicated, we remembered how shrapnel coated the house round our apartment after the Ukrainian air-defense system destroyed a Russian rocket.

After we returned to the apartment 9 months later, the marks of the warfare had been much less scary however nonetheless so apparent. Right here we’re standing in entrance of a navy hedgehog, a type of the static anti-tank blockade that stops navy autos from coming into sure areas.

Though warfare felt like a a part of life by this level, it was nonetheless a stunning factor to see. Think about you are coming again to your apartment, your property, and you might be greeted by a large construction that’s in place simply to be sure that tanks will not enter your property. It was jolting.

November 2022

Ivan in Denmark in November 2022, meeting two people who had supported Car4Ukraine.

Ivan in Denmark in November 2022, assembly two individuals who had supported Car4Ukraine.Ivan Oleksii

In November, I went over to Denmark to meet two individuals who had been serving to Car4Ukraine and had been, in flip, serving to the Ukrainian military.

Right here I’m sitting with Pelle, who gave our undertaking 10 vehicles in complete. He discovered them, fastened them, and then provided them to us.

Subsequent to him is Yette, a retired physician who noticed adverts of individuals promoting objects that could possibly be of use to troopers, issues like heat garments and binoculars. She managed to persuade individuals with a suggestion they might not refuse: take no cash for your issues and as a substitute donate them to Ukraine. She managed to amass tons of of things for our effort.

It was superb to meet them, unusually, as a result of they’d no relationship with Ukraine. That they had no household there, no actual hyperlinks to the nation, and it’s not like they’d a great deal of cash to give. As a substitute, they had been simply common Danish individuals who sincerely wished to assist Ukraine.

December 2022

Children selling cakes to raise money for the Ukrainian armed forces.

Youngsters promoting desserts to increase cash for the Ukrainian armed forces.Ivan Oleksii

In December, I continued to see individuals who had been working to do something to assist Ukraine. This photograph is of some youngsters working a bake sale.

This was cute, clearly, however the context is extra necessary.

The 2 youngsters on the proper are the youngsters of a household pal. She’s a single mother and had some monetary difficulties due to being one in every of the seven million individuals internally displaced by the warfare. As well as, there have been delays together with her social-support funds, so it’s been a arduous time for her in some ways.

Her youngsters raised about $70 with the bake sale, which interprets to not less than two weeks’ value of meals. However when her youngsters got here house with the cash, she wished it to go to the individuals preventing for her nation. So, she gave it to me so I might give it to the troopers by Car4Ukraine.

January 2023

Ivan, far right, with two men from Car4Ukraine, a military chaplain, and a solider near Bakhmut.

Ivan, far proper, with two males from Car4Ukraine, a navy chaplain, and a solider close to Bakhmut.Ivan Oleksii

On New 12 months’s Eve, I travelled from the relative security of our house in Boryslav to the warzone of Bakhmut to meet troopers and ship a fleet of vehicles to the entrance strains, and I spent the first day of 2023 proper subsequent to the energetic preventing.

It was unusual to begin a contemporary yr, a likelihood for a new starting, listening to the sounds of shelling almost a yr after Putin’s invasion started.

It was fascinating to be with these individuals at such a massive celebration, very far-off from our houses, when we hadn’t recognized one another a yr in the past. However now this trigger has united us.

It was scary and undoubtedly harmful — my fiancée was very frightened — and I was conscious there was a actual likelihood of being killed, however it was nonetheless the proper factor to do, to go into the preventing to assist in the approach that I might.

February 2023

Ivan with his parents and the besieged streets of Kherson.

Ivan together with his dad and mom and the besieged streets of Kherson.Ivan Oleksii

Practically one yr to the day after the warfare began, I noticed my dad and mom at house in Kherson for the first time in over a yr. It was unforgettable.

That they had no thought I was coming, and I used the Discover My Buddies perform on my iPhone to see the place they had been. My dad was in the grocery store, so I went in and turned to nook to see him shopping the aisles. I went over to ask if he wanted a carry house.

“The place the hell did you come from?” he requested, and we hugged for the first time since Putin invaded.

We shocked my mother at house with flowers, and we had been all crying over lastly being again collectively once more.

Although it was stunning to see my household once more, being again in Kherson was troublesome.

I might barely acknowledge the roads I grew up on. The road my college was on was completely besieged.

A spot that ought to have conjured completely satisfied reminiscences as a substitute felt like a set from a post-apocalyptic film.

From the grounds the place I performed soccer to the store the place I used to purchase fries as a teenager, it was all gone. No one was there. It was a shadow of what it as soon as was.

Onward to a new yr

The sensation of uncertainty continues to be very current as we transfer into the second yr of this warfare.

Nonetheless, one factor is obvious: We have to maintain going and stay our lives it doesn’t matter what.

Ukraine will win the warfare, 100% — and this may embrace the liberation of all our territories, together with Crimea.

Throughout this journey again to Kherson, for the first time, since I moved out of the metropolis at age 18, I realized that I truly need to come again to Kherson and assist rebuild it.

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