I heard my first air raid sirens in Kyiv, an eerie reminder that even in the bustling capital city that otherwise appears normal, this nation is at war.
Air Raid Sirens In Kyiv
After arriving at the central railway station and enjoying a cup of coffee, I walked through the beautiful ornate station and stepped outside.
Uber works very well in Ukraine; my car was just a few minutes away.
Outside, a young man came up to me and tied a blue and yellow ribbon to my wrist. He was collecting money “for Ukraine” he said. I chuckled…scam or not, I gave him a $1 US bill.
The station serves as an air raid shelter, but on this bright and sunny afternoon life was bustling as normal (a theme I am observing).
I checked into the Hyatt Regency hotel and one of the first things the check-in associate pointed out was that there was a bomb shelter one level below reception.
Me: Are we required to go there when the sirens go off?
Hotel Associate: No. It is just there in case you wish to use it.
Me: How often do the air raid sirens go off?
Hotel Associate: Usually a couple times per day. You can download an app and it will alert you when there is activity in the area.
Me: Do you go down to the shelter when the sirens go off?
Hotel Associate: No.
As an aside, I was not upgraded to a suite even though the hotel was mostly empty and has 25 suites. I did not ask nor did I care, but people often accuse me of getting “VIP treatment” at Hyatt and that is simply not the case, as far as I can tell.
With cloudy weather forecast for the next few days, I headed out right away after a shower.
Suddenly, air raid sirens began going off. I froze for a moment and look around. No one seemed to be all that concerned. Perhaps after a year of war, people become almost immune to such sounds.
As I would later hear in several first-hand accounts, in those first few days of the war, there was a very genuine fear that Moscow was rolling in and those sirens were certainly deeply feared then.
These days, there are still bombings that hit Kyiv and destruction that results, but Ukrainian air defenses are able to repel most incoming attacks and as such, these sirens do not necessarily mean a bomb or missile will hit the ground.
I’m quickly discovering that life is as “normal” as can be in Kyiv. I’ll have more to say about that in a future installment, but beyond the air raid sirens and men in uniform, you would not know that this country is in the midst of a fierce war if you limited your time to central Kyiv.
Even so, the country is at war and while Kyiv may not be dangerous, the air raid sirens are a constant reminder that a sovereign nation was invaded by another nation on false pretenses. The fact that my train had no men between the ages of 18 and 60 onboard (male citizens in this age range are barred form leaving the country) is a further testament to the fact that the nation is at war.
Next: the thriving coffee culture of Kyiv