Skip to content

This is how my war started

Ukrainian journalist Iryna Svatula recounts the events when bombs began to fall on her home town.

3.45 am. Abnormally loud and scary sounds of airplanes’ engines over the town. Colleagues from eastern regions of Ukraine began to send messages about the bombing of their cities. A few minutes later – thundering explosions and black smoke on the horizon. This is how my war started.

For the first seconds after my peaceful and picturesque town was bombed I couldn`t believe it is true, it is happening right now with me, my family and my country. I have been trying to prepare myself morally for a possible invasion in recent months, but my brain refused to believe that it had finally happened.

My youngest son`s crying awaked my mind. We all knew what to do. For many times we have discussed how we should act in such a situation. Fast as in the army my children get dressed, take their “alarm” bags and go down to the basement under the kitchen. After that my 8 year old son told me: “I am ready to protect my country but … I don’t want to die.”

This is how war started for my children.


Picture of two children in bunk beds
Iryna’s children during the bombing


This tragic morning for Ukraine my children, like millions of others across the country, stayed at home. All the schools were closed as well as all offices. I couldn’t stay with them.  Surely my work as a journalist had become more important that ever before. On the way to work, at the regional office of the Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine, I saw a town that I couldn’t recognise. Empty roads, hundreds of people queuing for shops and pharmacies and despair in their eyes. This is how war started for my town.


Picture of Iryna Savtula
Iryna working as a TV News anchor


None of my colleagues slept that night. We had being calling all possible services, gathering information. In the office everybody arrived early. Our work was periodically interrupted by sirens. I remember how during the next alarm we ran to the nearest shelter under the theatre.

There I saw a young girl running and sobbing, full of fear and anxiety. That day we had to learn to work in new conditions. Team work helped us to concentrate on our main goal – save our citizens from lies and attacks in this informational war. This is how war started for my colleagues. We worked like this for several weeks in a row.


Bombs fall on Iryna’s home town


The region where I lived is located on the border with Belarus Republic. When the threat of an attack by Ukraine`s northern neighbour became real, I packed the most important things into one backpack, took my children and five more of my friends and relatives and moved to the border with Poland.

It has already been three months since I left my native country, everything and everybody I love. My whole life stayed in Ukraine.

Saving my children from war, I drove through the Europe. Now we are again in a peaceful country, but the war continues. Every day I need to fight my sadness for home and my doubts whether I have made the right decision by leaving Ukraine.

I will be able to find the right answers only when the war is over.

Iryna Svatula is a Ukrainian journalist now based in the UK. She has worked as a reporter and news anchor with Ukraine’s Public Broadcasting Company.

Images supplied by author.