‘In one week, I’ve matured at least 10 years.’: Ukrainian man details day-to-day life in Lviv since Russian invasion

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February 27th

“Today we woke up for the first time without the air strike alarm. We slept in the hallway to stay further from the windows. It’s only day four since the Russian invasion, but it feels like an entire year has passed. Only yesterday I started to think more clearly, and I’m now ready to share my feelings during this time and what I did.

Ukrainian husband and wife sleep in the hallway to avoid windows due to air strikes.
Courtesy of Orest Zub

During the first day, when Russia launched missiles in 70 locations, it didn’t feel real. People rushed to the ATMs, pharmacies, supermarkets, and gas stations. Long lines everywhere. On the instinct level, you want to cover the basics. I called my family and some close friends. We arranged plan B and set a location for where to meet in case of losing contact.

Day 2 was all about logistics and getting organized. I collected my mother, sister, and my wife’s mother, bringing them to our place downtown to stay together. Later in the day, we established contact with my team at work and thought about what we could do to be the most effective.

Ukrainian family takes cover in basement of 200 year old building.
Courtesy of Orest Zub
Ukrainian man works from the bathroom to access wifi and avoid windows.
Courtesy of Orest Zub

In the meantime, thousands of refugees started to arrive from the east. For most of them, it was a horrible 1-2 days of travel. Many continued west to the border. Jams were up to 20 miles before every checkpoint. Only women and children are allowed to cross. Men are turned back for mobilization.

Many of my friends enrolled into the military units. Others help with transport, food, and other supplies. Everyone is trying to use their superpower. So we decided to restructure our marketing company and start informing in English from the fields.

Ukrainian civilian joining the military.
Courtesy of Orest Zub

A couple of times per day, there’s an air strike alarm, and I take only my emergency kit which is my carry-on size backpack. No bombings have happened so far in Lviv. But the feeling is awful.

Public transport is running according to schedule, most shops are open, and the city functions normally. Defense positions around the city are a real fortress, thanks to our army, self-defense units, President Zelensky, government, city mayor, and international support.

If you lived in the news vacuum, you probably wouldn’t even notice we are at war with Russia. In fact, the city is busy with many refugees seeking shelter, giving it a kind of traditional tourist feel.

However, it doesn’t mean we can relax. Just telling that the situation is under control. Everyone is working in many ways contributing to our upcoming victory.

Ukrainian man stands in cobblestone streets of Lviv.
Courtesy of Orest Zub

February 28th

‘What are we fighting for if not for the culture and art?’ – Winston Churchill

Ukraine has a long history and rich culture! Putin is WRONG in saying the Ukrainian nation doesn’t exist. There are over 50 million Ukrainians around the globe. And we are ready to fight for our freedom and self identification. The last few days are only proof of that.

Everyone is a hero and everyone’s work is important for victory! Gudimov Pavlo (left) turned his art gallery in Lviv into a refugee shelter and command center to fight on the culture and creative industries front. My lovely wife (head of the Gallerists Association in Ukraine) is leading cultural diplomacy in our city during these tough days.

Ukrainian man turns art gallery into shelter for refugees.
Courtesy of Orest Zub
Young Ukrainian girl takes refuge in art gallery in Lviv.
Courtesy of Orest Zub

March 2nd

My ladies (mother and two sisters), plus my 2-year-old nephew, stay optimistic event in the worst situations. They were roaming around Western Ukraine looking for a way out of the country. They had to pass multiple block posts, beat unprecedented traffic, and stay in old houses in the country side.

Currently hundreds of thousands of people simply try to survive doing the same, including many expats, pregnant women, children, etc. Men stay to defend our land.

Ukrainian family drives around looking for an exit from the country amid terrible traffic jams.
Courtesy of Orest Zub

March 3rd

Today, I nearly broke down due to an experience I’m not ready to talk about now. The war is like a python squeezing you tighter and tighter after every breath until you can’t take air anymore. Hopefully I will be ready to share this tomorrow… we’ll see.

These two pictures are taken 650 feet apart, with 10 minutes between each other.

Ukrainian man takes pictures showing the situation in Lviv.
Courtesy of Orest Zub

First, there is the amazing neo-gothic cathedral of St. Olga & Elisabeth, with the tallest church tower in Lviv, about 260 feet. Some of the best views over the city can be seen from up there. The square is nice and tidy inviting pedestrians to sit, relax, and sip a coffee or simply enjoy this sunny spring weather.

And just behind it, there is a road leading to the main railway station terminal. The army is blocking the road, giving way to public buses and trams only, which creates a massive traffic jam in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Ukrainian refugees from eastern cities under attack arrive in Lviv.
Courtesy of Orest Zub
Traffic jams in Ukraine as many people try to leave the country.
Courtesy of Orest Zub

Thousands of people run in various directions looking for family members and getting cash from ATMs or other supplies. Most of them are coming by overloaded evacuation trains from destroyed cities in the east. The journey can take up to 20 hours. It’s terrifying to look at their faces with so much sadness and disorientation.

The majority will continue as refugees to various European countries. It is already estimated that up to 4 million people shall arrive.

This is the first time since the Russian invasion started that I went out of the completely normal downtown. I couldn’t imagine it to be so shocking. I don’t know what happens next…

Ukrainians driving to leave the country.
Courtesy of Orest Zub

March 5th

I was quiet for the two last days. At least, I didn’t post anything. I simply could not. The reason is that I have experienced probably the most phenomenal emotion in life.

Two days ago, together with my father, we took my granny to the nursing home. Ukrainians don’t do it. Older family members usually stay with children until they pass away.

Ukrainian family takes granny to nursing home where she will be safer for the time being.
Courtesy of Orest Zub

However, my mother and two sisters had to flee recently. My granny is an old lady and even getting outside the apartment is difficult enough. We could not put her at risk of getting stuck if things get even worse.

Thus, we decided to take her into the nursing home were she’ll get the best care if we wouldn’t be able to do this. Hopefully soon our ladies will come back and we’ll take our granny home. She is the only survivor of the older generation in our family.

I cried almost the entire day. Visiting her apartment reminded me of my childhood, where I lived until turning 16. My granny always took care of me because my parents were busy working.

Even though she almost doesn’t recognize me anymore, I’m beyond grateful to her. Putting on clothes and taking her down was a regular routine for my mother. But I felt something I can’t even describe. Such a strong feeling.

Ukrainian family having dinner with their granny.
Courtesy of Orest Zub

It was our last housekeeping project. Now everyone is safe, and we are getting better organized in the middle of the mess happening in Ukraine. Things are slowly improving in Lviv as well.

Eventually, I feel a tremendous relief, and will continue participating in our resistance. During the last week, I feel I’ve matured at least 10 years.

March 8th

For the last 15 years or so, I’ve been actively traveling around the world and have visited 129 countries. It was my conscious decision to come back home during a recent trip, just two days before the war started, in order to participate, even though most of my travel mates advised me not to do so.

Ukrainian man shares picture of friend he made during his travels.
Courtesy of Orest Zub

During all those travels, I always met incredible people on the road. So when Russia invaded Ukraine, I received hundreds of private messages from all around the world with all types of proposals, initiatives, and encouragements. It took a few days to process everything. Lately I’m sleeping for 3-4 hours a night and still can’t keep up.

Most are invitations to provide shelter. But I’m not planning to move anywhere. My good old friend, Leszek, prepared a place in the neighboring Poland for my ladies (mother and two sisters) and nephew. He always helps when I need something. Thanks a lot, my friend.

Unfortunately, after a few days of roaming around Western Ukraine by car, my ladies could not find a feasible option to cross the border due to the massive influx of refugees and impassable checkpoints. So eventually, they decided to try their luck in the south, crossing Carpathian mountains into Hungary. Exhausted and stressed, they did it in the middle of the night. And then I thought, ‘Why drive all the way to Poland if there is Budapest just within 3 hours?’

So I called my friend, Peter, whom I first met in Budapest probably back in 2008. It was a matter of seconds for Peter to confirm that my family will be in good hands. I knew it upfront. So now my ladies enjoy Budapest, which is a great city to visit anyway. They are recovering and considering their next move. Hopefully this move will be back home to Lviv very soon. We are waiting here. Let’s see how things develop in Ukraine.

My queen decided to stay by me. She always does it. I can’t imagine my life without her.

Ukrainian husband and wife staying behind in Lviv.
Courtesy of Orest Zub

March 10th

The famous SPA resort-city of Truskavets became a ‘safe haven’ for tens of thousands Ukrainians fleeing from eastern cities due to destructive shellings by Russian artillery.

March is usually a low season here, but not this year. Now it’s very hard to find a room in Truskavets, even though the amount of hotels is second to Lviv in the region.

Ukrainian man visits tourist city now filled with refugees.
Courtesy of Orest Zub

People are everywhere! I’ve never seen Truskavets like this before. Probably this kind of picture is typical in most Western Ukrainian towns nowadays.

We’ll do our best to accommodate our brothers and sisters so they feel safe and comfortable. And then together we’ll rebuild ruined cities, forming a new society.

March 13th

You might have heard that Lviv was attacked this morning! In fact, eight missiles targeted military facility in the village of Starychi, which is approximately 25 miles northwest of Lviv, toward Poland (only 12 miles from the NATO border). 35 dead, 134 wounded.

Even though it is within Lviv province, the city itself wasn’t attacked. Public transport continues operating, shops are open, and people stroll along our historic cobblestone streets.

Obviously, this heats up the atmosphere. What I’m afraid of the most is losing our UNESCO heritage. The entire Lviv downtown is an architectural masterpiece. It survived both World Wars and we have to do everything we can in order to save it this time too.

Some works have been done in recent days to protect statues around the city by wrapping them. East facing windows of cathedrals are getting protection too. Valuable artifacts are taken into museum basements. I can’t imagine all of this being destroyed. It is the heritage of the entire human civilization, not only Ukraine.”

Ukrainian man takes picture in historic area of Lviv.
Courtesy of Orest Zub

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Orest Zub of Lviv, Ukraine. You can follow his journey on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Submit your own story hereand be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more about the war in Ukraine here:

‘He died as he lived, a hero in every sense of the word.’: Ukrainian-American man dies defending Kyiv from Russian attacks after lifetime of uniting forgotten kids with loving adoptive families

‘I see the mothers. Holding her child’s hand on one side, and a gun made for a soldier on the other.’: Mom praises Ukrainian mothers for ‘loudly loving, unapologetically surviving’

‘This photo gave me chills.’: Polish moms plant strollers at train station for Ukrainian mothers fleeing with their kids

‘I think about boys, now men, fighting in a war nobody wanted. Teens, just like mine, protecting their country with their lives.’: Mom shares ‘grief and gratitude’ having her son home safe

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