When the sounds of explosions rocked the Ukrainian capital and other cities, many sought shelter the only place they could find: underground.
Hundreds of people flocked to subway stations and basements to take cover from the Russian onslaught that swept across the borders Thursday. Some spent the night there.
In the eastern city of Kharkiv, loud blasts sent families down into a station, with their backpacks and pets, scrambling to understand what could happen next.
“We had to do something, so we came here,” Stas Dikii, a Kharkiv resident, told The Washington Post from the station, where he went for shelter Thursday with his mother and grandmother.
Around him, people sat on the stairs or leaned on trains, scrolling through their phones for news. Others made calls to check on loved ones.
“I’d like to hear in a few hours, or no matter when, some news saying: ‘We have survived. Kharkiv has been saved, everything’s great,’ ” he said. “But if there’s no such news, we will have to stay here.”
Oksana Nipogodneyeva, who joined the crowds with her mother and two daughters, also wondered how long they would be there. “It’s like living in a different reality, something surreal,” she said.
Her youngest daughter could just understand that “the situation is unusual” and was “still all smiles,” Nipogodneyeva said.
“For now, there’s absolutely nowhere to run,” she told The Post. “We have to wait and see what happens. And hope for the best, for this conflict to be resolved peacefully.”
At another station in the capital, people had hunkered down for the night as Ukrainian troops prepared to fend off Russian forces believed to be advancing toward Kyiv.
Photos later showed residents gathering in the basement of a school after their building was damaged. Some rested on the floor, while children played cards and one boy caressed a dog in the shelter.