‘I’m realising this is the new reality’: How life in Ukraine has changed

Liza Chernobay, who spent six years studying at a school in Gloucestershire, is staying with friends just outside of Kyiv.

01 March 2022

Sleeping in the basement, struggling to eat and keeping an eye on the news 24 hours a day.

That is the “new reality” for many Ukrainians, according to one student living just outside of the capital Kyiv.

Liza Chernobay, 19, spent the last six years studying at a school in Gloucestershire in England but was living with her parents in central Kyiv when the Russian invasion began.

Now they have moved outside of the city to stay with friends, where they are continuing to “monitor the situation” before deciding what to do next.

“At the moment to travel is probably more dangerous than to stay where you are,” she told the PA news agency.

Liza Chernobay
Liza Chernobay said the last few days in Ukraine have ‘felt like a dream’ (Liza Chernobay/PA)

“If things will start to get worse… but it’s just, the word ‘worse’ – what is good and what is bad is quite relative at the moment.

“Everything seems quite horrible.”

Ms Chernobay said the last few days have felt unreal.

She said: “It all felt like a dream – like I’m gonna go to sleep, then wake up the next morning and everything’s gonna be just fine, but it never happened.

“And now I’m realising that it is this new reality.

“And very often I start thinking about what could have been, what life could have been, what’s not gonna happen anymore, what’s not possible anymore, and think about the bad things.

“I try not to think about it because it doesn’t help, but to be completely honest, it does pop into my mind quite often nowadays.”

Ms Chernobay is due to return to the UK later this year to go to university but is now uncertain whether it will happen.

“First of all, even though it sounds very morbid, but I don’t know if I’ll still be alive,” she said. “Hopefully, I will.

“But I currently don’t have a visa to the UK. If I managed to get to another country, I suppose that won’t be a problem.

“But also there is a factor which is a very, very big concern, which is the economic impact of this war on Ukraine.”

For now she remains in her friends’ house, waiting to see what happens next.

And while the initial shock has lessened, Ms Chernobay is still struggling to come to terms with what is happening.

“I think things are a little bit more calm,” she said.

“Well, again, the word calm here is used very relatively – calmer than before.

“So I feel less shocked – still afraid, but not as intensely afraid.

“Nowadays the routine consists of checking the news 24/7 – it’s just my new job, to read the news and to share some information.”

Liza Chernobay is now living with friends outside the Ukrainian capital Kyiv (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

Her family and their friends are sleeping in the basement of the house, which she described as the “best solution” in the absence of a bomb shelter.

Many are struggling to eat and sleep though, and nearly all semblance of normal life is gone from her daily routine.

She said: “It starts with checking the messages and asking my friends who are still in areas most affected whether they are OK – likewise my grandmother, she’s still in Kyiv.

“And I check the news.

“And as a person living in 2022… I think it’s one of my small duties to spread truthful information so I do a lot of my own little media campaign on Instagram.”

Ms Chernobay said they “try to do some exercise and go outside” when they can.

And she added: “I was lucky to bring a book with me, but I haven’t touched it.

“I just can’t do anything normal – it just doesn’t seem right.”

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