KYIV — After hours of intermittent booms and rumbles in Ukraine’s capital, a siren went off in a central part of Kyiv around 7:20 a.m. At 7:21 a.m., the mayor’s office issued a statement telling civilians to seek shelter immediately.
At a hotel in a busy area, management announced that all guests had to report to a makeshift bunker in the basement.
Guests and staff descended and awaited further instructions. Some staff members continued to screen with their relatives.
Anxiety is mounting in Kyiv as Russian forces appear to be advancing towards the capital. Some civilian buildings were damaged in the morning.
Alyona Tkachenko, 36, who works in the hotel kitchen, fled with her family across the Dnieper after a building near their home was badly damaged in the early hours of the morning.
They live on the left bank of the river, in the east of Kiev. “We heard the explosion and we went to the bathroom and lay down on the floor, we covered our heads with pillows,” Tkachenko said. “Once the metro started running again, we came here.”
Her parents, Valentina and Serhiy Kharhyn, who are 54 and 58, and her daughters, Anastasia, 11, and Sabina, 3, are among those who fled with her.
“We immediately turned on the TV and realized it was the building right next to us,” Serhiy said.
They chose the bathroom as their immediate shelter because it had no window in case of further explosions.
When they made the decision to move at 7 a.m., the subway train closest to them was packed with civilians trying to flee and others who might have slept there overnight.
“It’s a shame we didn’t get here yesterday so we didn’t have to go through this,” Valentina said of the hotel, tears streaming down her face.
Valentina and Serhiy’s son and Alyona’s husband remained at home, unarmed. “We feel safe now but are worried about [them] and all Ukrainians,” said Serhiy, who served in Afghanistan from 1982 to 1984. “I know what war really means,” he said.
As the family recounted their ordeal, another emergency alert sounded.