Up Front and Personal

The Day War Broke Out in Ukraine

By Father Mykola Motruk

For all Ukrainians, February 24 became the starting point of the inevitable way to the victory of good over evil.

My morning started with a phone call from the hospital. It was my wife, who is pregnant, and who could not pay with her credit card. I was calm; I was just thinking about how to give her a solution so she wouldn’t worry. On the screen, it said “system error.” This bank is one of the most customer-oriented banks, but there was a strange problem with the funds, so rare that I can’t even remember it.

A red light flashed in my head like a premonition of something unknown. And suddenly there was a flurry of press releases from fellow journalists warning that a full-scale war had broken out in Ukraine with attacks targeting strategic infrastructure.

Was there a sense of panic? No. Was there fear? Absolutely there was! But it was not a paralyzing fear; on the contrary, it set in motion all the processes my family and I had been working on, probably for three months.

As expected, I anxiously grabbed a backpack, jumped in the car, and went to pick up my wife. On the way there, I quickly called my parents, told them what had happened and what we needed to prepare for.

On the way to the college dorm where we live — accompanied by the sound of sirens and the news on the radio — my wife and I hurriedly discussed the plan of action. Faced with unknown conditions, we made a conscious decision to stay in the country and do everything in our hands to help.

I had the feeling that the day would go on forever, even though only the first hour had passed since the news broke. When a large-scale war is taking place in your own country, the countdown is very different. You realize that every minute that the sirens don’t sound now counts for a lot. Large crowds ran to supermarkets, gas stations, and other places to buy supplies. Incredibly long queues formed in the city, but we stayed at home because we had already planned for the necessary supplies in advance.

Amid the panic, the day’s work continued. Endless meetings began, planned events were canceled, get-togethers and family things lost their importance because of the war. The priority of the day was the safety of the students. Fortunately, the university administration took care in advance to provide accommodations, water, medicine, and food, as they understood that not everyone would be able to return home. But the worst thing on our minds was that the students from Eastern Ukraine would have nowhere to return.

It was the fourth hour of the war. There are memories of fragments of conversa-