With a big pink bow in her hair, and a big silver “3” pinned into the top of a little cake on a heart-shaped plate, Lyudmyla’s daughter celebrated another year of life on Saturday.
But it was anything but ordinary, as the sounds of explosions and gunfire were going off right outside their window in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
Saturday marked the third day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It was also Lyudmyla’s daughter’s third birthday.
“She fell asleep to the sound of volleys and is frightened that this is becoming something of a routine,” Lyudmyla wrote on Instagram. “The worst thing is not that I didn’t buy her a present and couldn’t celebrate her birthday, but the fact that I’m afraid for her life, I’m afraid to go for a walk with her, I forbid her to go up to the windows and turn on the light at night.”
Before Vladimir Putin ignited the invasion, Lyudmyla, her husband and their daughter lived a relatively normal life, she told CBS News on Monday. They worked, her daughter went to kindergarten, and they made plans to travel. They were even making plans for Lyudmyla’s birthday on March 9 — she wanted to take a short trip to Poland.
But then everything changed.
Now, Lyudmyla and her husband work from home. Their daughter has not been to school in five days.
“We try to paint…sculpt,” Lyudmyla told CBS News over Skype. “She watches Peppa Pig.”
But even still, she said, “I’m scared for her life.”
“I didn’t know that this was happening in the 21st century,” she said with tears in her eyes. Lyudmyla shared a video with CBS News of the situation on Monday as it appears from outside their home. Dozens of bright flashes of yellow light, accompanied by loud bangs, can be seen and heard in the 30-second clip, as smoke towers over the buildings.
Lyudmyla said she and her husband are just trying to keep the situation light for their daughter. Without going into too much detail, they tell her it’s dangerous to go near the windows and out to the street. They’ve also been sleeping in the bathroom, saying it’s too risky to sleep in bed.
“It was only five days and we’re exhausted. Really exhausted. We want this war finished,” she said. “Now [that’s] our dream.”
For now, their daughter is fine, Lyudmyla said, but they don’t know for sure what lies ahead. She and her husband are just trying to stay updated on the situation happening outside of their walls.
“All day we hear loud sounds from the street,” she said. “We can’t panic. … It’s very hard. Because every minute, we all our parents, our friends, and we read the news. … It’s a really scary dream.”
Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, came under intense artillery fire on Monday after Ukrainian forces recaptured the area from Russian forces the previous day.
But as the situation evolves, staying strong only becomes more difficult for Lyudmyla and her family.
“I want the world to know that Russia really attacked our cities and our people,” Lyudmyla said. “A lot of our children are dying.”
As of Sunday evening, at least 352 Ukrainian civilians have been killed in the invasion, including 14 children, according to the country’s Ministry of Internal Affairs. On Monday, Kharkiv’s regional governor said that at least 11 civilians were killed and dozens more injured by Russian shelling in the area just that day.
“The Russian enemy is bombing residential areas,” Oleg Sinegubov wrote on Telegram.
Thousands of people in Ukraine are fleeing, but Lyudmyla said that she and her family have opted to stay at home. They’re too afraid to go outside, saying it’s “really dangerous now.” She hasn’t been to go to the store since Thursday.
“We wanted to go maybe to another country…but now we can’t go to another city or another county because it’s dangerous to go to the street,” she said. “It’s dangerous to move.”
Her husband, an IT specialist, will also go join the army if he’s needed, she said.
With tears in her eyes, Lyudmyla said all she can do is “dream for peace.”
“For the future, for our children, for my daughter,”