first week of war, February/March 2022 (updated in April 2022)
Kharkiv, East of Ukraine.

Today is the 5th of March, the 10th day of war in Ukraine. These words are written by Franziska Jakobi, co-leader of under construction, Team Hamburg.
It’s hard to find the right words in these horrible times, with a mind full of confusion and concerns, but I’ll try.

When we founded under construction, we knew about many difficulties of working together, but noone thought that we would soon have to face a war. We promised to each other that we want to stand together, and so we do, especially now, and we also try to inform other people authentically about life in our countries.
That’s why we decided to publish parts of the conversation that I have with one of my friends in Kharkiv since the second day of war. To protect this friend, we publish it anonymously.
When I chose parts of the conversation, I focused on the things going on in Kharkiv, in the perception of my friend, that is why my answers are only included when they are important for the ongoing conversation.
These texts give insights about how war can be experienced by civilians. Honest, pure, full with fear, but also hope.

To keep it most authentically, this text will not be translated into other languages.


25th of February, Friday (2nd day of war)

Hey! How are you? Are you save?

Hi Franzi! 🙂
Bless your heart for your concern, it’s very important for me now, cause we are all scared But we try to hold on
Yesterday we got up after the first shots had begun (it was about 5.15 am Kyiv). They are continuing at the moment with some periods of silence. Mostly the shots and explosions are happening in suburbs but we hear it too distinctly. Russians are bombing our strategic facilities (research institutes, warehouses, military units, bridges). They try to get to Kyiv

Most of shops and pharmacies are closed. There are very long queues at them

As soon as air-raid warning was announced, people began to go to the subway which had been turned into a shelter. All our family also wanted to join, but we didn’t do that. We grabbed our dog and cat with us, but we weren’t able to go further than our home because the dog started to panic, he was yelling all the time. We returned to home because we can’t just leave our pets, they are also members of our family

We are still at home now (the highest, 5th floor of the house), not leaving. In our district it’s all calm, no fights yet. But the the sounds of shellings HAVE INCREASED!!! Russians are shooting from suburbs!

UPD: It’s all quiet now
Cars are driving down the street, people are walking as if nothing happened

Franzi, there are very loud explosions which are heard now (18.50-17.07 Kyiv time) in all the districts of Kharkiv. Official resources say its a bombardment. But nobody has seen war planes. People in telegram chats say there are tanks in Derhachi (a town in a suburb area)
Our windows and doors are shaking too much
Earlier afternoon before this there had been few rockets which landed in residential areas
Fortunately, nobody was hurt

Explosions are still continuing
They became more rare and less loud

It’s all quiet now
People from different districts say in chats they don’t hear anything
Since 22.00 till 6.00 it is curfew in Kharkiv
I hope the night will be calm
Despite we are at home, we all feel too exhausted


26th of February, Saturday (3rd day of war)
Good morning Franzi!
The night was calm, at 6 am we heard a short cannonade
At 7 am the air-raid warning was announced: the Kharkiv airport was expected to be bombed. People living in that district claim they hear explosions but far away
Yes, I could sleep for about 6 hours 😊 The highest number in these 3 days 😂
In my district it’s quiet now, people walk with their dogs freely
But there are huge queues to the stores because not all of them are opened

Hi! I’m ok 🙂
It’s 5.45 pm
Today Grads bombard Kharkiv too often: we can hear very loud volleys almost every half an hour. There were 2 air-raid warnings
I managed to grab the last packs of food for my pets from a zoo-shop, the last toilet paper roll and the last tea bags 🙂 There are no vegetables, no bread, no tea, no coffee, no hygiene items in shops. Only chocolate bars and elite alcohol 😂
And we can’t use bank terminals, they are switched off. Only cash
I forgot to add
The queues are as long as earlier
Today my dad was standing for bread 2 hours near private bakery. And prices for it increased extremely
I also was waiting 1,5 h to get the pet food
We are not starving now, don’t think in this context
It’s just hard to get vegetables and bread because people buy it in the first 5 minutes
But it’s still possible to buy them


27th of February, Sunday (4th day of war)

Hi Franzi!
I’m ok 🙂, we are at home, not going outside
Russians are already in my district, they are running and shooting in places which are 15 minutes walk from my house. Also they are fighting in the downtown (Nikolsky mall, Maidan Konstitutsii, Pushkinskaya)

Hi Franzi 😊
Here are the latest news
There have been many fightings in all the districts of the city this afternoon. According to the official news, our troops have pushed back the enemy. But there are still too many saboteurs and marauders sneaking around.
Recently Zelensky have gone to peace talks with Putin. The talks are supposed to be on the Belarus-Ukraine border. And so far as Zelensky hasn’t reached the destination, there is a rumour that talks are going to be held in the morning. We are all expecting impatiently for results. I hope Ze and Pu will find a compromise.
As long as Ze is on his way, it has been quiet for a few hours. I managed to do my homework 😂

Not only the politicians were active 🙂 Many ordinary people in Twitter have been writing anti-war tweets and standing for Ukraine on demonstrations! 💪
Yes, our army is strong! And what’s more, I respect our soldiers for being humane and behaving honorably towards war captives.
Thanks again for your moral support and staying in touch! ❤️ I have just read your last post to my family and they are very touched 😊 Me, mom and dad – all of us are very grateful to you for sharing my stories about the whole situation. I am very happy that my little posts resonate so much with your souls 🥰 Greetings from us to all your friends and family! ✨
Honestly, this war is a tragedy for me and my family. And not only for me – but for millions of Ukrainians because a huge number of them have the following situation. My mum is Ukrainian and my dad is Russian. We have many relatives in Russia and my cousin is among them. When he called us at the first day of conflict, he cried worrying about us and our fate. This war should have never happened: we are all brothers and sisters from both sides of border! Yet it has. And I as half-Ukrainian, half-Russian feel shattered. We, simple Ukrainians and Russians, who are able to think critically and don’t believe propaganda – we don’t want to fight all the time since 2014, we just want to live in peace and prosperity! Our dear politicians overlook that with hatred in heart to each other there won’t be any future neither for a person, not for a country. And the war is the worst and the scariest scenario. People shouldn’t die just because politicians have conflict of interests.
Good night 🌙✨ I hope peace will come soon to all of us

28th of February, Monday (5th day of war)
Good morning Franzi 😊
The night was quite peaceful, sometimes there were rare shootings. But we hear very loud explosions now and officials say that air raid is possible. The curfew was extended, we are not allowed to go outside after 3 pm and till 6 am. It’s about 100 people waiting in queue near the store in front of my house because it will be closed too soon.
Wow, мороз in Hamburg! Don’t get frozen! 😉 When I was in Germany in 2020 (just before Covid), your winter was like spring to me. In Ukraine it’s -3 C now
The unity of people who help Ukrainians, who support us is amazing! It’s really inspiring and thanks to you, thanks to them we still can stay optimistic! 🌺 We all want to believe the best ✨
And after all that scary things we MUST create a better world. No more wars!
I wish you a good day too ❤️
Write you later 😉

Franzi, it’s 2.09 pm, and my district is being under attack! Many people have died! Please send this posts to everyone, let them see what is really going on in Ukraine!
My hands are still shaking, I have drunk sedatives
(Videos: dead people on the streets, a woman who lost her leg in front of a shop, a rocket in the street, burning cars)

Fuck. What a big shit. I am so sorry.
I will tell the people.
Where are you now?

We are still at home hiding
Subway is overcrowded
We can’t abandon our pets
We are sitting at the corridor

Do you have a basement?

No. Our house is too old, the basement is not suitable for shelter

And they fire on the civil houses?

Yes, and it doesn’t seem to be just accidents

Not good.
Try not to panic.
You will get through this shit.

How is it now? Are you ok?

While the talks (between the russian and ukrainian delegations, at the ukrainian-belarussian border) are continuing, it’s more or less quite
We are waiting for the results and no one knows what’s going to be next…

The negotiations have ended with nothing
I had made a mistake in previous posts about them. Not Ze and Pu have been going to meet but their representatives. No tet-a-tet meetings
Both sides have decided to return to the capital cities before the 2nd round of talks
After that the massive cannonade has begun
We are in the corridor again 😖

The corridor protected you once, it will protect you again!!

I hope so 😂
Unfortunately, we don’t have another protection

I think this corridor is a hero

It is 🙂


1st of March, Tuesday (6th day of war)

Hi Franzi 😊
The night was relatively calm
But the morning was loud
Few bombes hit into the downtown (Maidan Svobody, Zoo, streets close to Pushkinskaya)
(videos about destroyed parts of the city centre)

Oh dear, I know these places … thank you for this update. Good that the night was calm. Stay strong.

(Videos again, city centre)

This is so horrible. How is the situation now? Did they take the townhall?

They just destroyed it
Many people hurt, about 6 or 10 (I don’t remember exactly) died

At 1.30 pm there was a huge airstrike. Me and dad had been standing in a queue for bread for about 4 hours, and when we finally managed to go into the shop, we heard a thundering explosion. We fell on the floor. As my mom, who stayed at home, said, a war plane had flown right above my house. It’s unclear what exactly it destroyed, people say it’s target was a factory
We are at home now
I think, my hair will become grey too soon

You will put color into your hair! It’s ok! Hold on! <3

Franzi, I need to warn you
At the moment Russians are bombing all the communication centers in the whole country (TV, mobile connection etc), so there’s a danger to lose connection and maybe once I won’t be able to use Telegram and Internet at all
If so, I’ll try to find another ways to stay in touch but there may be difficulties

Hi Franzi! While hiding in the corridor from air-raid attack, I recorded a message (…).

We are alive!
I´m shaking in hysterics
But alive

You are all heroes!
Shake it out.
Peace will come. Just hold on. Soon we’ll sit together and eat some cake.
With the sun on our noses. In a peaceful park. Between green trees.
These times will come back. For sure!

Hi 🙂
It’s quiet for now
There was an air-raid warning
Me and mom went down to the 1st floor (here I mean „ground floor“) taking the dog with us. Dad refused to go and decided to stay at apartment with the cat.
We were sitting on the stairs, then went at home because the dog started panicking. Again.
So, we are expecting the night. I think, I won’t be able to sleep. My eyelids and hands are still shaking
The sound of the war plane was the scariest sound I have ever heard
So, good night to you 🙂
I wish none of you ever know what the war is

I guess I can’t imagine how crazy and scary this must be for you now. But try to calm down! Try to sleep!
Hug yourself while sleeping. For me this sometimes helps to calm down, to feel myself again
You will get through this.
I will also try to sleep now but I keep my phone switched on. Like all the last nights


2nd of March, Wednesday (7th day of war)
Hi Franzi!
I’m fine, trying to hold on
I don’t know what to do
I was offered to go to the subway
But my family strictly refuses to go
I hear explosions and try not to panic
I afraid of leaving my parents
I worry about their safety

That’s understandable. Why do they refuse to go?
There are other pets in the subway as well! If this is the reason … I saw pictures of them ..

1) Our pets, especially the dog, start to panic. Yesterday he was crying so loud that we could hear him from the 1st floor while dad took him to the 5th, back home.
2) My parents are retirees (59 and 65 year old), they can’t go fast. And also they just don’t want to leave the apartment
These pets (in the subway) seem to be calm 🙂
My Yorkshire terrier is too hyperactive

I understand. I don’t know what to answer. What do your parents say?
I guess they want you to be in safety, right? They want you to go?

They just want me to decide without explaining their decision to stay
Of course they want me to be safe

This is hard. You know, both decisions would be right.
But if you would go to the subway, you would be worried all the time about your family, I guess. That’s the „risk“.
If you stay, your risk is that it’s maybe more dangerous.
I think you should speak more with each other about this. Making decisions without speaking in such situations is no good idea.
You need to be clear with each other.

Thank you for your skill to always find right words 🙂
I really needed this
I spoke to them and decided to go in subway
And I’m on a station now
Sitting on the top, not going to the platform because it’s overcrowded
I don’t hear any explosions and shootings here
As one woman said, they don’t even hear planes

No, my friends are not here
I came here with my mother-in-law and her neighbours, but they left
It was risk for my mother-in-law’s son to be taken into army against his will right in the subway, so they returned to home
And the kid of the neighbours was too active
So, I’m alone here
But I’m not afraid

(Video of life in the subway)
That’s our subway
The atmosphere is, surprisingly, quite comforting
People created a telegram chat where everybody in the shelter can ask for help

That sounds good.
If I may ask, how is the sanitary situation there?

Quite satisfying, as for war times.
It’s clean on the platform. There are toilets opened and, on the contrary, they are dirty.
But not too dirty. There is water in taps and soap.
As for the litter, people don’t drop it but I don’t know whether it is took out by cleaners
I was told that outside there are trash cans which are overfilled
The drinking water is available
I don’t need it yet, I have my own

Hi Franzi 😊
I’m still in the bunker. Upd: toilets are cleaned, people here watch it. Also, at the subway stuff rooms it’s possible to get a hot water to make tea or coffee. Few hours ago volunteers brought us extra food. For 1 person there was: 2 slices of baguette, 1 slice of sausage and, only for kids, 1 slice of cucumber or tomato. They also gave children food for babies 0.5-1 years old.
It’s calm there. There was a period in the afternoon when I heard loud explosions made by planes. There were too many planes in the sky above Kharkiv. They ruined our downtown and destroyed our TV towers
And the air-raid alert has just been announced

Hey ♥️ thank you for your update.
I am happy that you have a bit calmness now and, as it seems, a good organized shelter.
I know from today‘s news that there were planes all the time, how horrible, I was shaking with you.
But they can’t do it forever. It will end.
We have to believe this and we have to keep our hearts and minds open and warm.

3rd of March, Thursday (8th day of war)
Hi Franzi! Sorry, I couldn’t answer earlier
My night in subway was good. Moreover, It was the first really calm night 😊
I am at home now but not for long. I just came for breakfast (I’ve run out of food) and for taking my parents with me. They finally agreed to join me! 😊 We’ll also take our pets with us. I’m going to go first for finding an appropriate place in the subway, and they are going to come a bit later
While I was at home, there were 2 air-raid warnings, we had to go downstairs and wait. It was really massive cannonade (maybe, by Grads), and it sounded too close to us. Russians are ruining our city! They are continuing to bomb our beautiful downtown, our churches!

But getting to the subway – it’s another one tale 😂 I was running to the entrance while the sounds of shootings and explosions were right above my head!
Finding a good place for us is quite complicated because we are with our dog and cat. And the dog (the Yorkshire terrier) needs a diaper for do his business when the curfrew is started. I have found a place right near the door to the subway – it’s the only one where I can hang the diaper onto the wall.
Both dog and cat are under big stress. Especially the dog. He can’t calm down for almost an hour!


4th of March, Friday (9th day of war)
Hi Franzi! 🙂
Sorry for not answering, the previous day was stressful enough (but not too stressful as it was when plane had been flying). We didn’t sleep well because the dog wasn’t able to calm down the whole night as well as my cat. Also people who wanted to go outside and smoke a bit were quite annoying: they were passing near our place almost every 5 minutes (it’s surprising for me, how many smokers were in the subway!).
I’m at home now. Mom’s sleeping, the dog is still stressing. Then we’re planning to go to the subway again.
The dog is a real protector of all our family! He barks very loud and this is surprising for many people 😂 But today we decided that we are going to take only the dog with us. I feel too bad with that and this decision was hard. The cat is almost 15 years old, he is like bro for me. But when we put him into a carrier, the dog begins to stress and becomes uncontrollable, doesn’t listen to commands, even refuses from his favourite food! The second problem is that cat had never been outside before (only when we needed to bring him to a vet), so he almost all the time tried to find a dark place and breathed too quickly. In his age such stress can cause myocardial infarction, even among cats! So, mom hopes that if we leave him at home, the cat will be fine and the bomb won’t hit into our house.
For now, the cat has calmed down
The prices are crazy. And even having money, it’s a real problem to find food. The shops are empty. If they sell something, it’s only bread. And it’s amount for 1 person is limited to 1 loaf. The only hope is for humanitarian aid. But it’s also hard to get it because at first it goes to socially unprotected people. Our family has food only for today. And 3 kilo of cookies. C’est la vie.

Imagine, today is 4th March and Kharkiv is in snow! In the peaceful times I would say it’s stunningly beautiful but now it horrifies me. Because of snow we can’t go fast enough


to be continued

Today is the 27th of April – the 63th day of the full-scale war in Ukraine. After publishing the last messages, the events became more and more rapid, there was not enough time and often not enough energy to continue here.
But these stories reached many people and I, Franziska, was asked concerned questions: what happened to your friend? How is the situation? Is everything alright? So, to end this part of the story, you can read the ongoing conversation up to the 16th day of the war.


5th of March, Saturday (10th day of war)
Yes, I’m fine for now
Just the day was too chaotic
We managed to find a better place in the subway 🙂 We are not near the door now, there is a very cosy corner at the balcony above the platform. There is no draft here, and there is plenty of free place. Actually, there are far fewer people in the subway than before. More and more of them are escaping from the country…
We got up at 6 am, when the curfew was over. Dad ran to the nearest shop to get in line and buy some food. He was standing in a queue about 3 hours and got frozen (it’s a huge snowfall today). But he managed to buy food for a few days! Fortunately, the shop was provided with products, so that we have 3 loafs of bread, some potatoes, carrots, sour cream, cheese, cottage cheese, 2 very little sausage sticks, 2 kilos of flour and a pack of chocolate bars! For war times this sounds like a feast 😂 But dad didn’t have time to get some meat – it was sold out too quickly.
While dad was doing shopping, me and mom went home. We just wanted to have a breakfast, to wait for dad and then to go to the shelter. But it would be too easy
TODAY THERE WERE TOO MANY AIR RAIDS. THE WAR PLANES WERE FLYING THE WHOLE DAY. As my neighbour said, they circled over my house almost without breaks during last night. And in the afternoon, when we were at home, they came back.
Firstly we heard explosions and the air-raid warning was announced. Me and mom went downstairs and were sitting there for 1 hour. When it became quiet, we decided to return to the apartment but suddenly, standing at the 3rd floor, I heard the approaching plane. We quickly ran back. So, we were sitting downstairs another 2 hours trembling with horror, crying and praying while planes were flying above us. When it ended, and the dad came home, we grabbed our staff, our dog and ran to the subway. I am here now.
Putin said that his „special operation“ will be fully completed. Despite his promises not to bomb the residential areas, planes destroyed the Karazin University’s sports complex; their bombs hit into many houses in different districts. Russians continue to raze our city, our history to the ground… And the both sides of the negotiations still can’t find any compromise.


6th of March, Sunday (11th day of war)
Hi Franzi!
I was told that there were too many air attacks the previous night (I didn’t hear them in the subway). Planes destroyed completely a detention facility in Kholodna Hora district. Also there was a bomb in a suburb in the morning which hit into the queue of people who were waiting for a shop to open. The rest of the day was quiet, suspiciously quiet. Obviously, it’s the calm before an approaching storm. And few minutes ago the war planes were spotted again. Even being in the subway, we can sense the consequences of the explosions: the walls there are shaking, the lights are flashing. According to the officials, one of the planes has been shot down right above my street by our forces! Its debris have fallen down on a house! And what is more horrifying it’s the official information that a large number of Russian planes are flying to Kharkov right now!!! The massive attack is expected at night!!!
We are all scared hoping that bombs won’t hit into our home…

Oh dear, these are horrible news. I hope the official information is not true. Kharkiv was damaged enough.
Try to think about something good, to keep the fear under control. Sing a song, give yourself warm thoughts.
It will warm your heart as well. We are with you! Doesn’t matter what will come.

I hope so…
I’ll try
Thank you ❤️❤️❤️

I don’t know if this information helps, but I try:
I am on a concert now and on the paper that I got, a peace-song is printed.
I guess we will all sing this today, for you guys. It’s „Dona nobis pacem“. You know it?

Wow! It’s really the huge moral help! 😀
Of course, I know that song 😊 It’s a part of the mass (the Agnus Dei section)

We sang it! People were kind of shy under their corona-masks, but the orchestra was also playing.
It was touching, especially because before I’ve read your message about bombed Kharkiv 😢

It is really touching 😥
We are being bombed again…

Yes, i read it in the news channels … bombs and bombs and bombs.
Time will come when there are no bombs left.

And, unfortunately, no Ukrainian cities
Russians are erasing Kharkiv right now. They are bombing my district (and the whole city simultaneously) over and over again and they won’t stop. There is an information in many telegram channels that Putin ordered to continue and to press on the attack if Kharkiv doesn’t surrender. I don’t know whether it’s true but it seems to be so

Oh dear … i don’t know what to say. It’s just horrible.
He bombs the city but he does not bomb you. You are alive. And you will be alive.

7th of March, Monday (12th day of war)
I really want to believe in that
But I can’t know what will happen even in the next 5 minutes. Every my step outside the subway is too risky – no one knows where the bomb will hit.
Yesterday evening a projectile hit into our TV-Tower again (Russians didn’t manage to ruin it last time but yesterday they turned off our TV completely). The blast wave touched the nearest houses and damaged them too much. Windows in the staircases of my house, which is located in 10 minutes walk from them, were all broken, the entrance door was warped. Fortunately, my flat wasn’t destroyed.
Also, our soldiers caught a marauder or a saboteur on my subway station! He was arrested

Dear, it’s hard to find good things in your stories and so it’s also hard to find good words.
But go on writing it out, because you need to express what you feel, or at least what you see.
It will help to keep you healthy, or to heal you afterwards.
And, you know – bombs hit many places now. But many places are also not hit.
Try to stay optimistic. Careful, of course, but optimistic.

8th of March, Tuesday (13th day of war)

Many people like and share your stories. I got some emails and messages that say:
Thank you for sharing, it’s important to know, and they greet and encourage you and everyone who is there now.
How are you today?

Hi Franzi! 😊
I’m very touched that my stories resonated so much with hearts of other people! Thank you and them! ❤️❤️❤️
My day was really crazy
Today my neighbours suddenly invited me to join them in their escape from the war to Europe, even though I didn’t know these people very close. In exchange I have to help them with their pets. They have a shelter for homeless animals and want to save them all (10 cats, 2 dogs). The neighbours are moving to Austria (their daughter lives in Vienna) and I can go with them but only if there’s enough place in a car they ordered. If there’s not, I’ll stay in Kharkiv. If yes, I’ll be in Austria on 11th or 12th March.
I was in hysterics, I cried, I talked to my parents. I needed to decide in a few minutes. Mom and dad want me to be safe and they both agree to let me go. It was hard decision for all of us. They ask me not to worry about them (but obviously I can’t do that)
I don’t know whether I’ll manage to evacuate myself. And if I do, I’ll just go to nowhere…

9th of March, Wednesday (14th day of war)
Franzi, I’m in the car! I’m on my way to Uzhgorod!
I’ll write you later

10th of March, Thursday (15th day of war)
Hi Franzi!
I’m fine, still driving 😊 We are passing by Ternopilska oblast. It’s about 6 hours before we reach the border. We’ll stay for night in a volunteer girl’s house.


11th of March, Friday (16th day of war)
Franzi, I’m already in Slovakia! 😃
Going to Austria


End of this chapter

The stories of the now new-starting chapter must be told elsewhere. That one person and many others who have also experienced such escape stories, are now safe. They are trying to find their places in another country, with different laws, different systems, different mentalities. The memory, fear and despair of bombs and explosions, the sound of airplanes and sirens is deep in their minds and bodies, and every day they worry about their relatives and friends who are still in the war zone.
And there is this one question:
When will this stupid war end? When will we be able to return to our home country and hug our closest people? Will we ever recover from this?
War is not abstract. War is personal.
Let’s try to listen to each other’s stories, let’s try to understand what’s going on in this world. Maybe we will learn to do things better.

(Written by Franziska Jakobi, 27th of April, 2022. Contact: info(at)