Kateryna and her husband Oleg endure what every citizen of Kiev has to go through – long power outages, hours without internet connection and constant fear of the next rocket fire.
But at the beginning of 2023, they are also preparing for the arrival of Gemini. Kateryna, who is 34 years old, is eight months pregnant. CNN agreed to only use first names for her and Oleg, as they fear for their privacy.
She doesn’t get much rest before the big day. The air-raid sirens wail almost every day, and the sound of explosions is all too familiar. Their lives are shaped by the planned power outages as power is split between regions to mitigate the impact of the Russian strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.
“On New Year’s Eve, I tried to take a nap,” she told CNN from her home in suburban Kyiv. “But I woke up to the sound of explosions, and they continued throughout the night. The sirens were on most of the night, until 4:30 a.m.,” she said.
It is difficult for local residents to distinguish between the sound of anti-aircraft defenses and the impact of Russian cruise missiles and drones.
“I don’t mind the power outages,” Kateryna said, “but we’re worried about the next wave of Russian missiles. will it be us It’s like a constant gamble.”
A nearby district – Vyshhorod – was hit a month ago, and the indiscriminately Due to the strikes, residential areas are just as endangered as power plants and railway lines. Dozens of health facilities across Ukraine, including maternity and children’s hospitals, have been hit since the conflict began.
When the sirens aren’t wailing, Kateryna says there’s another sound that’s new to her neighborhood: the rattle of generators as homes and businesses try to make up for up to 12 hours of power outages a day.
“They’re the Jingle Bells this Christmas,” she said.
Despite the risk and the imminent arrival of the twins, Kateryna still travels to central Kyiv twice a week to take advantage of one of the coworking spaces that have popped up in the Ukrainian capital.
These rooms have become quite professional, with furniture, heating, lighting, and reliable internet provided via Starlink terminals purchased from Elon Musk’s company.
Kateryna works in logistics, helping to import large containers to Ukraine. It’s more than just a living. It is also a way of contributing to the war effort.
Kateryna and Oleg are luckier than most Ukrainians as they have a small generator at home, but they use it sparingly. There is always a risk of running out of diesel to power it – it uses a liter of fuel every hour and needs to cool down every four hours. They have to choose which appliances to run: lights or laundry, they said.
They anticipate needing it long after the twins are born.
Living in Kyiv during Russia’s war against Ukraine means being prepared. Kateryna and Oleg have closets full of batteries, power banks and flashlights. If the Russian missile campaign against Ukraine’s infrastructure continues, as most expected, the planned power outages could become less predictable and result in more emergency shutdowns.
There is enough food in the stores, “but sometimes I have to go shopping with a flashlight,” says Kateryna. They keep about two months’ worth of food supplies indoors just in case the situation worsens.
Like many people from Kyiv, Kateryna and Oleg moved from the capital to a safer area in western Ukraine when the invasion began last February. But they never wanted to leave the country. And soon they felt the pull of home that drew them back to the city.
“I have a job here; Oleg has a job here and cannot work remotely. We have many friends here, our home. Moving somewhere else is a nightmare for me,” Kateryna said.
Kateryna feels that they are both involved in efforts to secure Ukraine’s future. In the first months of her pregnancy, she helped Ukrainian volunteer organizations raise funds for warm clothes and equipment for the Ukrainian army, she said.
“The company my husband works for has a fund and they help Ukrainian fighters who are on the front lines with equipment like drones and pick-up trucks. We helped raise money for such devices,” she said.
Like many other Ukrainians, they helped a family who fled the front lines early in the war. The mother had given birth amid Russian shelling of her hometown of Kreminna in the East Luhansk region. When the family settled in a Kiev suburb, Oleg and Kateryna helped them with warm clothes and food.
Kateryna says she is not afraid of becoming a mother during the war. She and Oleg want their sons to grow up in an environment that would be the polar opposite of what life would be like under Russian occupation.
“I really want my children to live in a free Ukraine, I want them to be safe. They have the right to safety and protection like any other child in the world. I don’t want them to live in fear of dying from a Russian missile, I want them to be happy and carefree,” she said.
Her only concern – other than giving birth to healthy children – is that she could be in the hospital amid another wave of missile attacks. At this point, she will pray very intensely, she said.