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Voicemails from Kyiv: Listen to one woman’s dispatches from a week in a war zone

As Russian forces invaded Ukraine, one woman in Kyiv called us every day, just to let us know how she was doing. Now, she wants the world to know.

Chronicling the War

March 13, 202202:39

One Ukrainian woman is sharing her audio messages with the world, describing what life is like in Kyiv during the Russian invasion.

When the first Russian bombs dropped on Ukraine, Larysa, 34, whose last name is being omitted for her protection, was at home in Kyiv, the capital city of Ukraine, with her mother, father and beloved rescue cat.

Weeks later, more than 2 million Ukrainians have fled the country. But Larysa is still there. Larysa's mother is in cancer remission and can't evacuate, and Larysa won't leave her. When the air sirens scream across Kyiv and Russian missiles shake their home, the family moves away from the windows while hoping the nearly 110-year old, concrete walls hold — it would simply take too long to make it to the nearest bomb shelter.

TODAY Parents has been in daily contact with Larysa since Sunday, Feb. 27, via WhatsApp. Larysa sends voice message updates in the morning and afternoon, sharing everything from how she's feeling, to how Ukrainian forces are continuing to defend the city and how much food her family is able to find.

With her explicit permission, TODAY is publishing a week's worth of Larysa's voice messages and her photographs of daily life in Kyiv. Larysa said in the midst of a strategic Russian disinformation campaign, she wants as many people as possible to know what Russian forces are doing to ordinary Ukrainians like her.

Thursday, March 3

"Hi, I promised you my voicemail. So, this is what was last night. As I said here before, that I fell deep asleep and haven’t heard all sirens. It was like four missile attacks last night. This day, our defense system destroyed one cruising missile. What I want to say here … it’s, you know, very hard to keep your mental health. It’s (inaudible) and panic and I’m trying to phone my friends to keep them all right and stop all that panic around us. And you, this whole time with phone in your hand — all time scrolling news, reading everything.

"Now, a new siren I guess.

It would be nice when everything would be peaceful and nice, to come to Kyiv and we can drink that wine together.”

"The biggest dream now is to sit near (a) church here in Kyiv, and watching. There a very nice place to see Kyiv ... and drink wine with friends. I guess, for me, one of the biggest dream to sit there, you know? It’s unbelievable that months ago, February, I celebrated my birthday with my friends here in Kyiv in part of the bars. And now, all of them — not only Kyiv, not only Ukraine — someone in Poland, someone in Romania, someone in Moldova, someone tried to cross the border to Hungary. Someone still in Kyiv but other districts and we’re separated from each other. And I even don’t know if it would be possible to get them again on my birthday after all this.

"You know, it would be nice when everything would be peaceful and nice, to come to Kyiv and we can drink that wine — our cocktails — together.”

Friday, March 4

“Hi, Hi. Thank you for checking. I’m all right. I’m OK. This night and this morning was very loud, but I'm really OK. Everything good. As good as it could be possible in this time.

"We were all worried about atomic electricity station, because it could be very big explosion of radiation and we’re worried about it. We’re worried.”

A cat basks in the sun in the streets of Kyiv.
A cat basks in the sun in the streets of Kyiv.Courtesy Larysa
A makeshift road block, made by citizens in Kyiv.
A makeshift road block, made by citizens in Kyiv.Courtesy Larysa
A long line of people in Kyiv, trying to obtain food, water, and other supplies before the mandated curfew.
A long line of people in Kyiv, trying to obtain food, water, and other supplies before the mandated curfew. Courtesy Larysa

Saturday, March 5

"Ukrainian people still take care about their pets. I met my colleague and she said she has one dog and three cats and she not going to leave Kyiv. She can’t leave them."

“Hi, I’m OK. We were out with my dad, tried to buy something to eat. We have enough food, but uh to keep on level everything we need. So, I saw enough people outside. I saw how boys checked one car — they blocked it from two sides and checked everything in the car. You know, this gave me some safety, even to see such things. Also, in big supermarkets, not so big lines. But you know, food of first need, not enough. A lot of chips, nuts and salt nuts and all that, so, which, like — so you know Ukrainians don’t buy milk — it’s enough milk, not enough vegetables. At the same time we bought all we need, not in big supermarkets but in little store. And in one store I even saw a lot of bread. So if in supermarkets, not enough, little stores have enough food.

“Long lines to pharmacies — not all opened. But which opened, long lines. And also long lines to some stores. Ukrainian people still take care about their pets. For example, I met my colleague and she said she has one dog and three cats and she not going to leave Kyiv because of her pets. She can’t leave them."

Sunday, March 6

"Last night was really quiet in Kyiv, and that quiet all around me made me more nervous. More stressed. Because you don’t know when will be the attack."

“Hi. I’m OK. As I told you before today, I am trying to work to help our employees with any information which could be helpful for them. So you know, it’s strange for me because last night was really quiet in Kyiv, and that quiet all around me made me more nervous. More stressed. Because you don’t know when will be the attack. This morning, they tried to shelling one of evacuation trains. Now they attack. Now they attack airport in Vinnytsia and send their eight missiles. Can you imagine? Eight missiles. They are really trying to destroy us. To kill us. Russians. I am begging you to tell — to tell the truth. That Russia tried to kill us.

"Yesterday, they again tried to attack children hospital in Kyiv. A few hours ago, two missiles was destroyed above Kyiv. They shelling civilian. They shelling hospitals. They shelling kindergartens. They shelling just simple civilian buildings where we live. You know, the situation in Buchach, Irpin — it’s northwest of Kyiv — it’s horrible. I can’t even believe that human can do that to other human. Russian troops not let people — civilian people — left. They sit without water, without food, without electricity. It’s really now again cold in Kyiv. For me, it’s not more, now in Kyiv, here I have everything what I need, but in that little towns, people are really blocked. And Russian troops not let them go away — go to safe territory. But you know, after last missiles, around several cities in western part of Ukraine, I even don’t know where are these safe territory now.

"Please understand, this my ask. Even when famous people all around the world supporting Ukraine, we appreciate it. But some of them, they didn’t mention Russia. And it looks like we shelling and shooting each other inside our country, but this is Russian invasion and aggression to my country.

A picture of a long line at a neighborhood supermarket in Kyiv. Reports show Ukrainians still in Kyiv have limited access to food, water, and medicine.
A picture of a long line at a neighborhood supermarket in Kyiv. Reports show Ukrainians still in Kyiv have limited access to food, water, and medicine. Courtesy Larysa
A picture of a produce aisle at a neighborhood supermarket in Kyiv.
A picture of a produce aisle at a neighborhood supermarket in Kyiv. Courtesy Larysa
Empty shelves at a supermarket in Kyiv.
Empty shelves at a supermarket in Kyiv. Courtesy Larysa

Monday, March 7

“Hi, I’m, uh, OK. And as I told you before, these days in Kyiv rather quiet and calm. But outside Kyiv, near Kyiv, north and west, it’s really hell on earth. You know, when I saw photos of killed family — parents and two kids — then when I saw video how people found a car with two killed persons inside; they just tried to evacuate and go away and they were just murdered. They killed them. Shooting the car — it’s so horrible video I even don’t want to send it to you. The photos, you know, for me it’s really — now I think it’s really more safer to stay in Kyiv. ... I haven’t been outside today, but my friend — she’s in other district of Kyiv — said that stores open and also pharmacies open. She even found antibiotic that she needs now. Also hospitals work.

"In the same time, my mom and I — we continue to work. Remote work. But I can tell you that we have our work.”

Tuesday, March 8

“Hi, I’m OK. Not too much to tell you for now — I have some problems with my mobile internet but home internet not good today. I’m going outside — if you need, I can make some video and photos for you. Our entire defense systems — oh god, they are really our angels.”

Wednesday, March 9

“Hi, it’s me. I’m OK. Our night was rather loud about air siren. At the same time, today was rather loud *bomb bomb* — even my house shaked. As I see, it was air defense system, which stopped one or two missile. And our military plane — I can’t remember how it was in English, sorry.

"Guys from volunteer defense gave my dad bread. Just because they had. They decided to give bread to my dad — it was so nice.”

"But I’m still thinking that Kyiv is rather safe, you know? Today, my dad made a little raid through opened pharmacies to buy some medicine. And you know, lines — there is no lines to stores and supermarkets but now we have lines to pharmacies because not all pharmacies opened. And you know, there was this moment was when guys from volunteer defense gave my dad bread. Just because they had. They decided to give bread to my dad — it was so nice.”

A relatively empty street in Kyiv, where a barrier has been put in place to slow any invading Russian military vehicles.
A relatively empty street in Kyiv, where a barrier has been put in place to slow any invading Russian military vehicles.Courtesy Larysa
A message to Russian troops in Kyiv. Translated, it reads, "Russian soldier f--- yourself."
A message to Russian troops in Kyiv. Translated, it reads, "Russian soldier f--- yourself."Courtesy Larysa
The streets of Kyiv are relatively empty, as more than 2 million Ukrainians have fled the country since Russian troops invaded.
The streets of Kyiv are relatively empty, as more than 2 million Ukrainians have fled the country since Russian troops invaded.Courtesy Larysa

Thursday, March 10

“Hi, it’s me. I’m OK. I believe I’m OK because last night, in four minutes after air siren, I heard aircraft so close that I was really scared. I had no time to go anywhere to bomb shelter or anywhere else. In four minutes aircraft so near and so loud — it was the most scary moment from the beginning of this war.

"In this moment, you understand that you can’t do anything — even the closest bomb shelter, I have no time to move to it."

"Because in this moment to you, you understand that you can’t do anything — even the closest bomb shelter, I have no time to move to it. It’s not so deep down and I guess couldn’t even make me safe there, so. And all this news — you know, it’s so hard to read what Russians write about us. They tell that we are lying; that it’s our army, you know, so selfish that according to their comments our army fight with our army. And our problems of our civilians is about our army. It’s terrible. And did you hear what Russian ministry of foreign affair told about maternity in Mariupol? They’re really crazy.”

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