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Briton speaks of ‘tough two or three days ahead’ as Russian troops close in

English teacher Dan Baker, his Ukrainian wife, stepdaughter and their car Pumpkin are sheltering in their school.

01 March 2022

An English teacher originally from Brighton, who is in Kyiv with his Ukrainian wife as Russian troops close in, is expecting a “tough two or three days ahead”.

Dan Baker, who married his Ukrainian wife in 2016 after meeting a work, has lived in the city more than five years.

He has spoken of getting used to the wail of daily air raid sirens, and of ordinary Ukrainians’ “resilience” in the face of death and destruction.

Satellite images have shown Russian forces massing around the capital city, with a column of armoured vehicles, tanks, artillery and support vehicles stretching 40 miles.

That force was 17 miles from the capital on Monday.

Mr Baker, his wife Victoria, 34, 12-year-old stepdaughter Veronica and their cat Pumpkin are currently living in the school they run, in the basement of a brick building.

The 41-year-old said: “It’s an old Russian empire building… and the walls are a metre thick, so we’re quite safe here, I think.

“We try to stay away from the windows at night.

“The first (air raid) siren I heard was haunting, it was terrifying.

“I said, in one of my YouTube videos, you’ll never get used to the sound, but it’s like living next door to a train station – you don’t hear the trains after a while.

“I try not to be blase about it, but you just get used to it – it’s amazing how quickly you adapt to things.”

Asked if he and his family had any plans to leave, he said: “I’ve got a car and I’ve got about about 70km (43 miles) worth of fuel in there, so I can get out the city, but where do I go then? There’s no petrol to buy.”

Mr Baker, who queued for food for two hours on Monday, told the PA news agency: “I need to get to a chemist tomorrow, we’ve heard a rumour there might be one open.

“We were going to go out today, but I had a gut feeling that we shouldn’t.

“I’m the only person I can trust at the moment.”

Dan Baker
Dan Baker (PA)

“It’s not like it’s ‘oh, should I go to the pub tonight or not’ it’s like ‘shall I go out to the chemist and risk being shot’,” he added.

He was speaking just hours after reports of a Russian missile strike near the city’s landmark Kyiv TV Tower and Babi Yar Holocaust memorial sites.

“I was only aware of it by my friend telling me as soon as it happened, and he said it was a huge explosion,” he said.

“It’s probably 100 metres from his house, but he said there was this red glow and a huge explosion.”

Mr Baker also praised Ukrainians for their spirit and bravery in the face of the onslaught.

“I saw some videos of the resilience of the Ukrainian people, even on foot when faced with a tank, chanting ‘go home’,” he said.

“Unfortunately, their men (the Russians) have been sold a lie and they’re never going to see their families again, some of them and this is all because of one person.

“I’m not going to get political but that’s how I felt.”

He added: “I don’t know if the aid is coming that was promised, I don’t know how long we have got to hold out.

“I know it’s going to be two or three tough days, I know that.”

Mr Baker has become something of a voice for ordinary citizens of Kyiv and daily life living with a constant threat, after he started posting YouTube videos to – as he said – keep himself sane.

Before the war, he was hosting up to 12 English lessons a day and was a “workaholic”, but all that has come to a halt with the war.

“I just want to get awareness out there, really,” he said.

“The more people that know there are normal people living normal lives, I think it will make the awareness go up and they will want to help.

“You can’t imagine the how many people I’ve had say ‘you know there are (Ukrainian) people coming to England, we’ve got houses – we’re sending this over, we’re doing this’ and that’s just from people who have messaged me because of what I’ve done to keep my head sane.

“It’s affected other people and helped them, and that’s amazing.”

Mr Baker is now setting up an Instagram page showing pictures of “normal people doing normal things”.

“People just need to know that we are strong, and we’re carrying on,” he added.

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