Amidst Ukraine’s broad steppes: three views from a warzone

The following piece appeared in today’s Taipei Times:

It wasn’t until 7am that Masha Gorenkova realized something serious was up. The first explosion had woken her at 4:30am, and several more had occurred in the interim; but like most of the neighbors in her Kyiv apartment block, she hadn’t twigged. Given the tone of inevitability from many quarters in the build up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, the revelation that Ukrainians were taken by surprise seems counterintuitive. Yet incredulity was widespread among those on the ground and relatives further afield. Few thought this would happen.

“I was shocked,” Gorenkova, a 25-year-old teacher, tells the Taipei Times. “Nobody had been really talking about this; everyone was just quietly going about their business.”

Schools and workplaces were, at this point, thought to be operating as normal and many people were beginning their daily routines. Based on uncertainty over the explosions and reports of heavy traffic across the city, Gorenkova decided to stay home with her 13-year-old sister. Soon, the unthinkable was confirmed.

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