Sleeping in a Cubbyhole: Kiev Adopts Russian Night “Terror”

At the sound of sirens, two of the little girls quickly unfold a mattress on the floor, while their mother takes the third to a sleeping closet.

In Kiev, facing Russian air raids almost every night since the beginning of May, we adapted to take shelter and sleep as little as possible.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the alert went off once again around 3 p.m., marking the twelfth and thirteenth nights of attacks this month.

But when the nighttime attacks increased, parents bought extra mattresses and made places to sleep away from windows.

“Everyone gets up, takes their pillow, their blanket and goes to bed in a specific place”, explains 44-year-old Lyodmila, who is afraid to reassure the children.

“Even if it’s not very comfortable, at least the girls get enough sleep. Otherwise they won’t be in a position to study the next day.”

The mother sleeps in the cubbyhole with 4-year-old Tausia. Her husband shares the hall with Katia, 10, and Tonia, 7. The dogs are at his feet.

– Like in a movie –

“The alarm goes off when missiles fly,” explains little Tusia. “We go to the closet, I take a toy with me”.

Despite appeals by the authorities to move to shelters, many Kievites remain in their apartments, especially in hallways or bathrooms, as very often buildings do not have basements or they do not fit outside, and metro stations are not necessarily quick. accessible from

“My children sleep in a cubbyhole,” a senior Ukrainian government official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

In mid-May, Sergei Tchouzavkov, a 52-year-old press photographer, watched from his balcony as anti-aircraft defense bursts aimed at Russian machines “like in Star Wars”.

Every night, he goes to bed very late, manning sentries and surfing Telegram channels, often the first to announce the launch of Russian missiles or drones. He wakes his wife and their 14-year-old daughter Nastya if he considers the risk significant.

On 16 May, when hypersonic Kinzal missiles were fired over Kiev, the explosions were so loud and close that Sergi put his helmet and body armor on his daughter, who had taken refuge in the hallway.

Nastia makes sure not to intimidate. “The first night was scary but after that I got used to it and instead of being scared, I got angry at the Russians.”

– More than 90% of missiles were shot down –

Netizens praise the “gods” of air defense every morning after the attack.

The latter have reason to boast and thank Western military assistance: if during the first months of the invasion, from 20% to 30% of Russian missiles were intercepted, according to estimates of the Ukrainian edition of Forbes, in May this The figure exceeded 92%. magazine.

The success was due to the delivery of Western systems, including American Patriots, for the first time since the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022, which made it possible to intercept Kinjal.

If destruction and damage were minimal in Kiev in May, this repeated nocturnal tension is not insignificant.

“The more sirens go off, the more calls we receive,” says Sergiy Karas, a doctor at the Kiev Emergency Medicine Center in charge of the ambulances.

According to him, the average daily calls increased to 1,300-1,400 in May as against 1,000 in the previous months.

Young people suffer from panic attacks, anxiety, older people, high blood pressure and arrhythmias, lists Mr. Karas. “Often sedatives are enough, but sometimes it’s a heart attack or a stroke.”

With each siren, single mother Olena Mazour and her 5-year-old son Sacha descend into the underground car park of a neighboring building, from the day their entire building shook after a series of explosions. Sometimes they go there twice in the night.

In the morning, whether they’ve slept or not, it’s work and kindergarten. “We manage because we have to live”, assures this 42-year-old accountant, adding that Russians are inclined to “spend only one night a week like us”.

“It is hardly possible to hate them more than we already hate them,” she says.

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