In Photos: Citizens of Kyiv – The New York Times



The photographer Alexander Chekmenev captured fortitude, desperation and resolve in a city under attack.
In the weeks after President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia ordered the invasion of Ukraine, Kyiv, the capital, became a city transformed. Much of its population evacuated. New defense units gathered and took up arms. Impromptu social support — field kitchens, aid stations, bomb shelters, evacuation convoys — sprouted into functional shapes. The city endured intermittent bombardment throughout. This altered streetscape became the uneasy milieu of Alexander Chekmenev, a Ukrainian documentary and portrait photographer who since the 1990s has visually chronicled his country’s post-Soviet life. Read More
Like many of his fellow citizens, Chekmenev, who is 52, took care of his family early on, ensuring that his teenage daughter reached safety in Slovakia. He himself opted to remain. In a climate of indiscriminate attacks, a circumstance in which anyone might be randomly harmed at any time, he felt an imperative to work, venturing out on assignment for The New York Times Magazine to find those who stayed put. Carrying a medium-format Pentax camera, equipment more commonly used in advertising or fashion photography than in the coverage of war, he met some people by appointment and approached others as they walked the streets, labored in their new roles or huddled in shelters. Chekmenev brought a professional ideology as well — his belief that ordinary people are worthy of personal dignity and artistic attention, whatever the geopolitical tide. “For me, the first place has always been the human,” he said, explaining his focus away from those conventionally regarded as important, including Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, whose telegenic resolve has earned him international admiration. “The country is made up of people, and I want to elevate and respect each.”
As a civilian, Chekmenev was bound by the same conditions and restrictions as anyone else. Kyiv was on a wartime footing. A state curfew forbade almost all movements at night. Newly erected checkpoints and antitank barricades blocked some routes. Subways no longer crossed the Dnieper River, further separating the city’s Left and Right Banks. Lines formed for medicines and food. Danger loomed. In a place at once anxious, ominous and curtailed, Chekmenev’s pursuit of his project required routine. In the morning, when residents were allowed out again, he roamed Kyiv. At night, he was back in his studio, uploading fresh portraits, communicating with friends and editors and preparing for the forays of the next day.
Each day brought what it brought. To those who remained, sometimes the invaders felt just beyond sight, a foreign army grinding through cold mud outside the city, pressing forward but at any given hour held at bay. Other times, the Russian assaults, launched from afar, came close. These moments assumed modern war’s familiar but ever-startling forms: a rocket screaming down toward homes; a child dead on arrival at a polyclinic, too late for a waiting surgeon’s hands.
By the third week of war, as the Russian Army continued its shelling and creeping advance, Chekmenev had made a record of the ordinary people in the invaders’ way. He photographed a preservationist who guards the artifacts of a sacred 11th-century cathedral, an accountant who runs an open-air kitchen, an actor who repacks medical supplies into first-aid kits, a railway employee who helps fleeing civilians. His subjects’ expressions blended perplexity and anger, defiance and determination, weariness and fear. Assembled like a gallery, the portraiture forms a catalog of personal, street-level resistance in a community molded by existential threat.
Chekmenev rejected any description of himself as a journalist, even while conveying stories almost in real time, just as journalism can do. And as he focused on individuals, one meaning in his body of new work could not be missed. Putin, organizer of violence bent on breaking Ukrainian will, purveyor of the ahistoric idea that Ukraine was a result of little more than a Bolshevik mapping mistake, had thus far achieved the opposite of what he planned. In its reaction, Ukraine proved that it was not some wayward Russian territory waiting to be led back to the Kremlin’s nostalgic notion of its place. It was itself, and it would fight. “What’s happened now,” Chekmenev said, “is that in an instant — a single instant — the Russian fascists have turned us into a single nation.”
In interviews, Chekmenev’s subjects spoke of adaptation in the face of approaching menace. Choosing where to sleep — at home? in a neighborhood more distant from the fighting? below ground? — was a consequential gamble. Every day could demand reconsideration. Choosing how to participate was a gamble too, and a matter of balancing the options of resistance with individual skills and personal choice. Some residents blended Molotov cocktails. Others steeped tea. One man, Maksym Skubenko, who had no previous martial experience, signed on as an armed reservist and was rushed into combat the first night. “We have an instructor who taught us how to use weapons,” he said. “We have guns and some bullets and warm clothes, and we are trying to live like that.” What might a frightened citizen tell the world? Anna Abramenok, a film and theater actor, once appeared in a Kyiv production of Nikolai Erdman’s masterpiece, “The Suicide,” a Russian comedy of terrors banned for decades in the Soviet Union. Chekmenev found her assembling trauma kits from donated supplies. She urged Russia’s people to find their voices and call their soldiers home. “Bring your sons back,” she said. “Don’t go to fight. Don’t go to your death. Don’t go to kill. Stop your men.”
Ukrainian history is replete with outrages, sorrows and mass suffering. Its past century, much of it experienced as a Moscow vassal, was especially harsh, including the ordeals of Kremlin-directed repression and famine, Nazi invasion and occupation and the seismic confusions and corruptions that accompanied independence and privatization. Its existence alongside Putin’s Russia brought fraud and aggression, too. While millions of Ukrainians lived in near penury, part of its political and business elite amassed shadowy fortunes exploiting resources, enterprises and infrastructure formerly owned by the state. One of Ukraine’s presidents was poisoned during his run for office. Mass demonstrations at times were met with crackdowns. Russia forcibly annexed Crimea in 2014, the same year it supported separatist uprisings in the country’s east — preludes to this year’s escalated war, initiated from Moscow to extinguish Ukrainian independence for good.
The past, be it days or decades ago, can at least be described. The future, kaleidoscopic and dark, offers neither stability nor clarity. No one could say how or where any of Chekmenev’s subjects might be by nightfall, much less tomorrow or in a week. The collective interrogation of what might happen next was both relentless and in vain. Who would fight for Ukraine? Who would secure its nuclear-power plants? Would there be a cease-fire? What powerful weapons might Russia’s military try next? Would NATO close the sky? On the streets of the capital, no one knew. What existed was the present, which fit Chekmenev’s urge to photograph Ukrainians where and as they were.
ANNA MALININA
Anna Malinina, 30, a private English tutor for children, took up residence on a subway platform against her will. She woke the morning of the Russian invasion to the sounds of explosions, packed a bag and stepped outside to meet a friend. When she returned to the apartment where she lived as a boarder, the owner had fled and secured all three locks on the door. Malinina had a key for only one. The owner was unreachable. “I ended up on the street,” she said. Each day, Malinina has left the subway station for about 30 minutes. Most everything nearby is closed, she said, but one store has food, and she goes there. The platform has been cold at night — “very, very cold,” she said, “almost like being outside.” On March 16, with Kyiv on all-day lockdown, Malinina was not allowed to step above ground at all. “People have been down here for days,” she said not long after night fell.
NATALIA DOLINSKA
Early in the Russian assault on Kyiv, a bomb landed on a car parked beside the apartment building where Natalia Dolinska lived. Shrapnel and fire destroyed seven vehicles. Dolinska, 35, the director of a branch office of a financial company, was spared; she had relocated ahead of the attack. Her company closed its doors as Russia invaded, leaving her with no place to be each day. So she joined a field kitchen and now works shifts with other volunteers to gather groceries or prepare food; the flames behind her in this portrait are from the open-air stoves that now feed thousands of neighbors. With her home nearly destroyed, her job idled and Russian forces seemingly trying to encircle the capital, Dolinska spoke with disgust at Kremlin propaganda that insisted that the Russian Army came to save Ukraine. Russia, she said, had not invaded to help. “We do not need saving,” she said. “We were doing fine without you.”
ROMAN KRYVYTSKY
Roman Kryvytsky, 38, owns Fighter, a martial-arts club in Kyiv, where he teaches karate to about 200 students. He joined the Territorial Defense Forces on the day Russia’s battalions crossed Ukraine’s borders. Kryvytsky had no experience with infantry weapons but participated in the bloody street clashes for the Maidan in 2014, fights that involved Molotov cocktails and studded clubs. The Ukrainian military assigned him to an antitank team, which a British instructor has been teaching what he called the “nuances” of using NLAWs — shoulder-fired missiles with armor-piercing warheads that have been destroying tanks on the war’s many fronts. “We have been training to use it for the past two weeks,” Kryvytsky said. Russian columns will not survive attempts to enter Kyiv, he said. When the fighting is over, he expects to resume his former life. “I intend to get married and have children,” he said. “I have plans.”
ANNA ABRAMENOK
For two decades, Anna Abramenok, 38, has worked as a film and stage actor. Now she is a volunteer for a group providing medical supplies to the Ukrainian military. “Everyone wants to help the army,” she said, and one result has been an outpouring of first-aid items. Abramenok and her colleagues open boxes of donations, sort through them and then repackage bandages, painkillers and other items into makeshift kits for units engaged in the city’s defense. The volunteers have received and redistributed many essentials, Abramenok said, but lack others. “Tourniquets are very much in demand,” she said. Her resolve is mixed with fear. “I am afraid of what I cannot control, and that from which I cannot run away,” she said. “I am afraid the sky will rain down fire. I am afraid my home will be destroyed.” But fleeing the capital, she said, has not seriously entered her mind. “This is my home. It wasn’t an option for me.”
VLADYSLAV MALASHCHENKO
Five years ago, Vladyslav Malashchenko, 26, opened Good Bread From Good People, a bakery that employs adults with mental or psychological disabilities and specializes in cakes and hot lunches. On the day before Russian Army units rolled onto Ukrainian soil, Malashchenko, sensing the impending crisis, held a meeting with the staff, in which they decided to stop selling to individual customers and bake bread for the public good. They quickly procured an additional 150 kilograms of flour and set to work. “I am not militant in my nature,” Malashchenko said, “but I can bake bread.” Throughout the opening weeks of the conflict, the bakery produced about 300 loaves of bread a day, almost all of which it has given away — some to a home for adults with cognitive disabilities, the rest to volunteer organizations, which distribute it in Kyiv. Malashchenko plans to keep baking. “Now, at this time of great need in Kyiv,” he said, “we need to continue our work.”
SERHIY KULIASOV
As Russian forces began attacking Kyiv, Serhiy Kuliasov, 46, who worked as an information-technology director at Dyvoslovo, a journal for teachers of Ukrainian language and literature, sent his two daughters and young granddaughter out of the city. He and his wife, Viktoria Yermakova, 45, who worked with him at Dyvoslovo, decided to remain behind and help the Ukrainian Army. They founded and now run a field kitchen in a neighborhood on the capital’s Left Bank, working with more than 150 people to prepare 7,000 meals a day. The Territorial Defense Forces gave Kuliasov a Kalashnikov rifle to defend the kitchen. “We will work under the open sky,” he said, “until we are victorious.”
VIKTORIA YERMAKOVA
The field kitchen that Viktoria Yermakova and her husband, Serhiy Kuliasov, founded serves plov, salads, tea and sandwiches, as well as borscht and other soups, and volunteers deliver the meals to hospitals and the army. An essential pop-up enterprise, the kitchen and its labors have not stopped. “Irrespective of the curfew, we work around the clock,” Yermakova said. She has listened to the speeches by Putin and rejects his descriptions of Ukraine. “We are not Nazis. We are not fascists. We are just Ukrainians, ordinary people who love our country. We are not planning on attacking anyone.”
VALERIA GANICH
The war with Russia divided the family of Valeria Ganich, 58, before the latest invasion. Her older daughter lives in Donetsk, where Kremlin-backed separatists have been fighting since 2014, and consumes and believes Russian state media. Her daughter is not a Putinist, Ganich said, but supports Russia and does not think the war has been happening as her mother experiences it. “It’s just brainwashing,” Ganich said. “She does not understand.” Ganich herself was born in Russia, in the city of Ufa, but has long lived in Ukraine, where she works as a supermarket cashier and has been writing screenplays. She has a heart condition and feels too weak to go back and forth to her apartment when air-raid sirens sound, so she has been living in a subway station for weeks. Driven underground, she spoke of the invading army with disgust. “They are inhuman,” she said. “This is not how people behave.” She referred darkly to Western militaries, too. “NATO,” she said, “is hiding behind the bodies of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians.”
STANISLAV SHELUDKO
Last year, Stanislav Sheludko, 31, who trained as a firefighter and then had a career organizing corporate parties and public events, began pursuing an interest in cybersecurity. As the war began, his life shifted again. He visited a firehouse and offered to get back on the trucks. The firefighters said they had no directive to bring on more people. Next, Sheludko presented himself at a train station, where he was assigned to work in a warehouse, sorting humanitarian supplies. Every night he returns to his apartment before curfew. His mother lives with him now, having vacated her apartment by the airport, which is a strategic target and especially dangerous to be near. When asked what he might say to Russians about the invasion, Sheludko paused. “It’s a pretty hard question,” he replied, because his answer would require words that cannot be printed here. He composed himself, then said, “Leave us and go to your country, because we will defeat you.”
YURI KLOCHKO and TASIA KLOCHKO
When the air-raid sirens began, Tasia Klochko, 33, and her father, Yuri, 58, opted not to rush into shelters below ground. They remained in their apartment. Not knowing who might be harmed or what buildings damaged or reduced to rubble, they wanted to be in position to help other people. Tasia heads an association of small producers and stockpilers of fuel. As residents evacuated Kyiv and the Ukrainian military and cadres of volunteers rallied to its defense, she has been providing diesel to the army and ambulance services. She grew up in a home with an artistic and independent streak; her father and visitors often discussed writers and books banned by the Soviet Union. She is now working to arrange imports of diesel from the West, to keep the capital capable of organized resistance. “All my life I have lived in the city center,” she said. “And now I stay in Kyiv, because you don’t leave the one you love.”
KATERYNA HRYSHCHENKO
A sous chef and server at a Pizza Sushi 33 restaurant until late February, Kateryna Hryshchenko, 23, was also a champion bodybuilder and former basketball point guard. She reported to a military recruitment center a little more than 12 hours after Russia invaded, delayed only because she could not immediately find her passport. By 10 p.m., she was a soldier in the Territorial Defense Forces. “In the first days, my duties were the same as the guys’ duties,” she said. “I dug trenches and carried sandbags.” Next she was involved in logistics, including organizing meals for soldiers and trying to procure ballistic vests and thermal imaging devices, an effort frustrated by the scarcity of such equipment in Kyiv. Three weeks into the war, Hryshchenko had told few people of her athletic background. “The majority of the boys do not know about my past,” she said. She expected the next months to be an ordeal. “I don’t know what will happen. The circle is closing, and our people and cities are gradually dying.”
OLEG GODIK
Oleg Godik, 43, an organ-transplant surgeon, worked in a children’s hospital until the invasion, when his usual routine ended and he became a general surgeon in a polyclinic treating people wounded in the war. In the first two weeks of fighting, he performed surgeries on soldiers and civilians, including wounded children. One boy arrived dead, he said; another died on the fifth day after suffering shrapnel wounds to his neck. Still more wounded children, Godik said, have been denied humanitarian passage to Kyiv by Russian troops outside the city. His wife, Inna, is an anesthesiologist, and their daughter, Yevhenia, is a first-year medical student. All three work together in the clinic, trying to save and comfort those harmed by explosions, bullets or flames. “I believe in our eventual victory,” Godik said. “But the price will rise.”
MAKSYM SKUBENKO
As Russia invaded, Maksym Skubenko, 30, the chief executive of VoxUkraine, an independent analytical organization and fact-checking service in Kyiv, set aside his work and joined the Territorial Defense Forces. He had no previous military or weapons experience. An instructor hurriedly taught him and other new volunteers how to shoot a rifle, how to fire antitank missiles, how to make Molotov cocktails and how to fight with a knife. On his first night of duty, a commander collected him after an alarm and quickly took him on a mission with other soldiers. Skubenko said they shot into a vehicle with Russian soldiers or agents, killing at least two of them. With more Russian forces drawing near, he was not yet sure how he would adjust to his sudden, unexpected role as a combatant, and all that it might mean. “I just don’t know what is happening,” he said. “I just absolutely know I need to be here, and I have to defend my country.”
TARAS KOBLIUK and NINA SAVENKO
Taras Kobliuk, 33, and Nina Savenko, 33, husband and wife, are artists who work together as lithographers. When the war began, they had money saved and felt healthy. They decided, Savenko said, “to use our strength to help our city.” The couple evacuated Maia, their 7-year-old daughter, with her grandparents, to Lviv, in Ukraine’s west. Then they became part of a group that gathers and delivers medicine by bicycle and car. Long lines grew at pharmacies, and supplies of certain drugs ran low. “We spent two days trying to find the necessary medicine for a child with epilepsy,” Kobliuk said. By day, Savenko and Kobliuk work outside and move throughout Kyiv, risking being caught in an airstrike or an artillery or rocket attack. At night, they sleep in a small tent in a subterranean parking garage. At first they lived two levels below ground. Then they moved up one level, closer to the ordnance and the air. “We are becoming braver,” Savenko said.
PAVLO ARIE
On Feb. 24, the day Russia began its latest invasion of Ukraine, a new play by Pavlo Arie was to be performed at the Left Bank Drama and Comedy Theater. Instead, the theater closed, and most of its employees and artists left the city. Arie, 46, a director as well as a playwright, opted to stay behind as the venue’s caretaker. “I decided that going to work was my ritual,” he said, “even during the war.” Arie’s play, “Odysseus, Return Home,” is his reinterpretation of Homer’s epic of war and reunion, told through the perspective of Penelope, Odysseus’ wife. The sign in front of the theater still holds the announcement of the play’s showtime. He spent the first weeks of the war sharing updates with his scattered peers, reassuring them that thus far the theater was undamaged. Two mornings after the would-be staging, Arie posted a photo on social media of a shattered and smoldering building. “All night Russian cruise missiles fly at civilians,” he typed. “I’m alive.” On March 13, Arie posted that he had temporarily left the city.
YULIA ISHCHUK
For 14 years, Yulia Ishchuk, 39, has worked as a conductor for Ukrainian Railways, the national transport system that in the exigencies of war assumed a role as an evacuation service and a lifeline for supplies. Her usual route between Kyiv and Solotvyno, on the Romanian border, has become a busy loop, carrying people out of the capital and returning with men coming to the capital’s defense and humanitarian goods that civilians hand conductors along the way. To handle surging crowds in Kyiv during the early days of the bombardment, Ishchuk’s train added 13 passenger cars to its usual 10. At first there were more people than seats, though numbers declined as the city’s population shrank. By the third week, she said, the city was calmer. “It’s very difficult, mentally and emotionally,” Ishchuk said. “It was hard to look at the children’s eyes and see them so scared. It was hard to leave people behind on the platform. It was hard to see men part with their families and stay behind to fight.”
VADYM KYRYLENKO
Few places in Ukraine carry the historic significance and resonance of the Cathedral of St. Sophia, the 11th-century Byzantine structure, replete with cupolas, frescos and artifacts that UNESCO designated a World Heritage site in 1990. As it became clear that Russia was bearing down on Kyiv, Vadym Kyrylenko, 43, a preservationist and deputy director of the conservation area that includes the cathedral, participated in a family meeting that led to a decision to evacuate his wife and their children. He and all the other men in his family returned to Kyiv. He now lives in a building on the cathedral complex’s grounds, taking care of the sacred place. “My responsibilities are the restoration of the institution and its protection,” he said. “I am doing this now in wartime.” The bulk of the collection cannot be moved. For protection, the staff has shut windows and put cases over some of the objects — steps, Kyrylenko noted, that have unmistakable limits. “As everyone knows, this is ineffective against an air raid or shelling.”
IRYNA SHYROCHENKO
A fifth-year student in a six-year physiology course, Iryna Shyrochenko, 21, hopes to become an endocrinologist. When her institute suspended classes, she volunteered for the Red Cross. Her wartime routine became working at first-aid stations, providing medical care and psychological aid. Once she accompanied a convoy evacuating citizens from the capital. She chose to remain each night in her apartment in the city’s center, where she and her neighbors have so far been unharmed and people have begun adapting to conditions unimaginable weeks before. “We hear the air-raid sirens,” Shyrochenko said. “In the beginning, every time we heard them we ran to the basement. But now we have too much to do, so we cannot run to the basement every time.” A native of Kherson, she came to Kyiv for her studies, and she calls her family each day at their home. “Of course I really want to see my parents, my brother, my grandma and grandpa,” she said. “But I know this is where I can be more useful.”
LIUDMYLA DIACHENKO
Until the invasion, Liudmyla Diachenko, 74, commuted each day to her job outside the capital at Multivac, a manufacturer of industrial, consumer and medical packaging machines. Now, she and her husband retrace the short journey between their apartment in Kyiv and the bomb shelter in the subway station nearby. Her husband taped their windowpanes so that glass would be less likely to shatter and fly through the rooms in the event of an explosion outside. (During the bombardment’s second week, a rocket or missile landed about 50 meters from her apartment. It was a dud.) With no job to occupy her, Diachenko has tried bringing order and control to the days by filling time with ordinary tasks. Distraction has provided little relief. “It’s depressing, depressing,” she said. “I try to do something — maybe cook something, maybe clean something. It’s very, very hard.” The world, she said, must somehow understand. “We are good people,” she said. “We need to explain this to others. We have not done anything wrong.”
VITA BOINA and DENYS
Since the first days of March, Vita Boina, 31, an assistant manager of a day care center, and her son, Denys, 2, have lived almost full time in a railway car idled in the Palats Ukrayina subway station. Not long after they moved there, someone stole Boina’s phone as it was charging. She lost the number for her ex-husband, who is with her two daughters in a village on the way to Chernihiv that has suffered Russian attacks. She does not know if they are safe. The subway station is cold, especially at night. Boina puts her son in makeshift bedding atop cardboard, the only insulation between him and the numbing floor. Many people brought pets to the station, including a hedgehog. Dogs bark in the confined space. It could be worse. “We were lucky enough to find a space in a train car,” she said. “I know my child is cold. I wrap him and try to keep him warm.”
BORYS YASTRUB
A ballet dancer and member of the National Opera of Ukraine who has performed internationally, Borys Yastrub, 36, was touring in France with his wife, Lilia, who is also a dancer, when Russia invaded. The couple were part of productions of “Giselle” and “Swan Lake.” They immediately headed from Paris to Krakow to Ukraine to evacuate their 8-month-old son and Lilia’s parents, who were caring for the child. Once the family was safe near Romania, Yastrub headed back to Kyiv, where he said he was considering joining the Territorial Defense Forces and fighting. “You stand in a long line, and they can’t really use you,” he said of the military recruitment centers, which have been flooded with volunteers. A dancer since early childhood, Yastrub lacks military experience. “I am prepared to do this, but I do not know how to do it all,” he said. “I would like to be given some kind of training on weapons and how to move.”
MAKSYM PAVLIUK and LIUBOV TYMCHENKO
Liubov Tymchenko, 17, moved into an underground subway station with her boyfriend, Maksym Pavliuk, 20, and her cat, Murysia (“the purrer”), after the attacks on Kyiv started. A student in a school for hairstylists, Tymchenko spent about 18 hours a day on the platform, returning outside about six hours a day to check on her home and charge her mobile phone. She and Pavliuk were sustained by volunteers — “today they fed us hot dogs,” she said — and took turns using the station’s small bathrooms. About 60 people lived underground in this station full time, she said, roughly half on the platform and the remainder in subway cars. When shelling or air-raid warnings sounded, the station often filled up, she said, and could become standing room only. Her fear was acute and disorienting; she was traumatized. “I am afraid of the shooting,” Tymchenko said. “I am a sensitive person, and I become hysterical.” (She relocated to Poland on March 17.)
RUSTAM GUSEINOV
Rustam Guseinov, 57, a resident of Odessa since 1993, was working in the building trades in Kyiv when the invasion began. He turned up in a food kitchen for a meal and did not leave. “I came here to eat, and I just said, ‘I should help,’” he said. A former soldier in the Soviet Army, Guseinov fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s as a reconnaissance scout in the country’s northern and western provinces, including from a small outpost near Herat. His experiences as a soldier both softened his views and hardened his demeanor. “I am generally against any war,” he said. To Guseinov, the shelling of Kyiv feels familiar, an echo of his youth. “When I was in Afghanistan, it happened three times a day,” he said. He suggested that with rockets and missiles landing randomly, and the possibility of death anywhere, staying home was no more safe than being on the streets. In this climate, he said, he opted to work alongside other volunteers, to try somehow to be part of Kyiv’s defense. At the field kitchen, he has been making sweet kompot, a treat to be served to those who remain.
SVITLANA PETROVSKA
Svitlana Petrovska, 86, is a living archive of Ukrainian suffering and resilience. Born in 1935, she fled into Russia with her family as German soldiers advanced on Kyiv during World War II; her relatives who stayed behind were killed. Petrovska had measles and pneumonia as a young refugee. Russian women in a village, she said, nursed her to health. She returned to Kyiv late in the war, still a child, and helped clear its rubble. As a young woman, she became a history teacher, and she taught for 63 years. When Russia began bombarding Kyiv in February, she moved into the subway and remained sheltered there almost continuously — her most sensible option, she said, given that she walks very slowly and could not move from home to shelter between attacks. Late in the second week, with the Russian Army grinding closer, she left Kyiv for Budapest, her life bookended by attacks on her home. “I have seen a lot, and I have never seen anything like this,” she said on the phone as she crossed the border, a refugee once more.
ANNA MALININA
Anna Malinina, 30, a private English tutor for children, took up residence on a subway platform against her will. She woke the morning of the Russian invasion to the sounds of explosions, packed a bag and stepped outside to meet a friend. When she returned to the apartment where she lived as a boarder, the owner had fled and secured all three locks on the door. Malinina had a key for only one. The owner was unreachable. “I ended up on the street,” she said. Each day, Malinina has left the subway station for about 30 minutes. Most everything nearby is closed, she said, but one store has food, and she goes there. The platform has been cold at night — “very, very cold,” she said, “almost like being outside.” On March 16, with Kyiv on all-day lockdown, Malinina was not allowed to step above ground at all. “People have been down here for days,” she said not long after night fell.

Alexander Chekmenev is a photographer known for his portraiture and documentary work. He was born in the Donbas region of Ukraine, and he has been living and working in Kyiv since 1997. He was named Photographer of the Year in Ukraine in 2014 by Foto.ua. C.J. Chivers is a staff writer for the magazine and a former Moscow correspondent.
Photographs by Alexander Chekmenev for The New York Times.
Additional reporting by Ali Kinsella and Anna Pechenina.
Additional design and development by Jacky Myint.
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Russians and the War
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On the Diplomatic Front
The U.S. has tried to strike a tenuous balance between aiding Ukraine and avoiding an escalation with Russia.
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How We Verify Our Reporting
The Times has deployed dozens of journalists to report on the ground in Ukraine, to cut through the fog of misinformation.
Our team of visual journalists analyzes satellite images, photographs and videos to independently confirm troop movements and other details.
We monitor and authenticate reports on social media, corroborating these with eyewitness accounts and interviews. Read more about our reporting efforts.
Understand What Is Going On
Background: Understand the causes of the conflict and the history of the relationship between the two countries.
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