KYIV, Ukraine – February every year seems to be tough for Julia Po. That was the month she had to leave her home in Crimea in 2014 after the Russian military annexed it and pro-Moscow separatists took control of parts of eastern Ukraine.
This February, however, was particularly painful, as Russian troops landed on the border of Ukraine and the United States and its allies warned that an invasion looked imminent. On Friday, President Biden, while still pressing for a diplomatic solution, said he believes Russian President Putin has made the final decision to invade within a week and target the capital Kyiv, Ukraine.
Up to 190,000 Russian troops and members of allied forces are stationed near the border and in eastern regions held by the separatists, US officials say. In the east, separatist leaders have called for mass evacuations, alleging that the Ukrainian military is planning a large-scale offensive – an assertion Mr. pretext for Russian aggression.
The crisis has taken its toll on many Ukrainians, including Ms. Po, an artist. She had planned an exhibition in western Ukraine, but she forgot about it until the last moment, overwhelmed by the stress of Russia’s military build-up.
She decides to go – but then begins to worry that if the worst-case scenario of an invasion comes true, she will be trapped in the western city of Lviv for a long time.
“I read the news and thought to myself, ‘How can I go if I have a cat here?'” Ms. Po, 36. “And I canceled everything. The next day, things calmed down and I booked again.”
Ms. Po said her background makes it hard to be an optimist. “When you come from Crimea and have lost your home, you understand that anything is possible,” she said.
In Kyiv, there was an air of reality about the situation and stoic determination. Despite an eight-year simmering conflict with separatists in the east, many Ukrainians have managed to keep moving forward.
But recent warnings from the White House have had a powerful effect, although the Ukrainian government has sought to discourage people from panicking.
Anna Kovalyova, a writer with three young children, moved with her family from Kyiv to Lviv on Sunday. She did so after the US Embassy said it would move operations there.
Ms Kovalyova, 29, said in an interview: “We moved temporarily because we really felt panic growing in Kyiv.
“The atmosphere in Lviv is completely different,” she said. “You don’t feel too nervous here. And there are a lot of people like us from Kyiv, mostly children, who have come here for a week or two to go through uncertain times.”
At least one school in Ukraine has tried to offer reassurances to parents, sending text messages saying that if phone service is cut, they should be reassured that their children are in school.
The message also notes that the school has a basement, presumably used as a shelter for children in the event of an attack. Some elementary schools are conducting drills to prepare students for possible bombardment.
https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/02/19/world/ukraine-russia-news Ukraine-Russia News: Live Updates – The New York Times