Moment is publishing regular updates from Helen, a Soviet American Jew living in Kyiv. Read all the diary entries here.
I live right in the center of Kyiv, around the corner from Khreshchatyk Street, the city’s main avenue. Though the war is always on everybody’s mind, recently it seemed to be far away. Kyiv appeared to be lively again and safe.
That changed Monday. I was doing exercises on my balcony shortly after 8 am, facing one of the city’s main streets, when our neighborhood was rocked by a thunder-like blast. I thought my eardrums would get ruptured. The missile landed a few blocks away from our apartment building. The building was quaking and I thought the windows’ glass would be shattered. Since the beginning of the war, I had never felt my life was in danger. Monday was the first time when I realized that life in a country at war is fragile. The casualties of the explosion were only a couple hundred yards away.
The neighbor from an apartment below and to the right of ours opened her window, a look of panic on her face, and asked me if I knew what had happened. I told her that it might have been a missile. Even hearing myself say this I did not believe it, but then we saw a cloud of smoke rising up into the sky. Now I knew I was right, though I was so shocked that I couldn’t trust what I was seeing.
I asked my husband if he had heard anything on the news. “No news yet,” he said, “but I have no doubts about what just happened.” I still couldn’t take it in. It was the first days of Sukkot, a festive holiday. After a cold and rainy September, the warm and sunny weather felt rewarding. Everything held the promise of safety. A sense of hope and peace was in the air.
Shortly after the blast, I saw people terrified, panicking and rushing to bomb shelters. Stores stayed closed. Traffic in the city center was blocked. Everyone worried there would be more strikes. Similar attacks against civilians happened that Monday throughout Ukraine. I think that not only in Kyiv but also all around the world there was fear about what unpredictable Putin, the biggest terrorist of the 21st century, would do next.
My friend works at the Khanenko Museum, an art museum halfway between my house and the place where the missile landed. The museum holds the biggest and most valuable collections of European, Asian and ancient art in Ukraine. She told me afterward that the force of the blast caused a chandelier to fall. Several paintings fell off the walls and cracked.
The missile fell in the vicinity of a playground, but thanks to the early hour, no children were playing there at the time.
Texts flew among our friends and relatives as we tried to make sure no one we knew had been hit. My husband and I received more messages than we can count, including from our American friends who woke up to the news that Kyiv’s city center had been under fire. Everyone was texting and worrying about those who were near the blast.
Some friends checked our social media accounts to be reassured that we are alive. Others, knowing that my husband and I were so close to the explosion, were anxious to contact us. Here is one message, from my dear friend who lives in Chicago:
It is very difficult to describe how angry we are and it is beyond any comprehension to observe these horrible events. The whole world is upside down now.
Hang on, one day it will be over. Ever thinking of moving back to the USA?
I almost know your answer, but there is a limit to everything!
Love you and nervous for you and the whole country,
Something should change!!! And it WILL!
During the season of Jewish Holidays, we are praying for you!
When a missile that takes off 2000 miles away blows up 200 yards away from you, you remember the preciousness of life and the value of peace. May the entire democratic world stay strong and united to protect world peace.