Ukrainian journalist says she wakes to ‘five seconds of fear’ every morning

Iryna Guley, who works as a news producer for Ukrainian TV channel 1+1, said she is devoted to telling the ‘human stories’ arising from the conflict.

04 March 2022

A journalist who fled Kyiv as Russia invaded said she wakes to “five seconds of fear in the morning” when remembering her country is at war.

Iryna Guley, who works as a news producer for Ukrainian TV channel 1+1, is no longer working from their studio based in Kyiv, but continues to document the invasion from a city in western Ukraine, which she would not specify for security reasons.

Ms Guley, 33, grew up in Odesa but moved to the capital when she was 18, and is devoting her time to telling the “human stories” coming out of the conflict.

“It’s not just an invasion in Ukraine, they are terrorists,” she said.

Iryna Guley
Iryna Guley fled Kyiv the day after Russia invaded on February 24 (PA)

“It is important to show the world what’s happening, not only the numbers but the human stories (of) what is happening here.

“Nobody feels empathy if they don’t see these private stories – so we are trying to show private stories of families, of children with their mums who are victims.”

Ms Guley woke to the sound of an explosion in Kyiv when Russia invaded, interrupting her mother over the phone to tell her: “‘Mum, we are at war.’”

“I had prepared a surprise for my mum because the 24th of February is her birthday, I ordered flowers,” she said.

“And at 5.30, I woke up to the sound of an explosion – my brain didn’t believe it at first.

“But then I heard the sirens, cars, the reaction to that loud sound and I understood that it’s true I heard this explosion.

“I called my mum to tell her… but she was thinking that I called her to give her a happy birthday – she was like, ‘Oh, Iryna, hi!’

“And I interrupted her and said: ‘Mum, we are at war’.”

Ms Guley’s mother, who lives in Odesa, still received her flowers that morning.

Ukraine-Russia war graffiti
Anti-war protests have taken place across Europe in support of Ukraine, with one graffiti artist taking to shutters in Dublin city centre (PA)

The journalist told how a colleague is unable to contact her mother and sister in the eastern port city of Mariupol after a bombardment of Russian strikes on Wednesday has left citizens “without water”.

“People are dying in Mariupol,” Ms Guley said.

“In the 21st century, people are dying without water – I don’t think there is a European (who) can understand how it is to die of thirst.

“My colleague has been trying to reach her mum and sister who are there, but she hasn’t succeeded – so they are without telephone contact or they are dead.”

Ms Guley added that her brain is “refusing to accept” that Ukraine is at war.

“I wake to five seconds of fear in the morning, when I understand our country is at war,” she said.

“There are little periods of time when I come back to reality… I feel like I’m in a dream.

“It’s very interesting to see myself in this situation.”

Ms Guley warned that Russian president Vladimir Putin is not only Ukraine’s problem.

“If he takes Ukraine tomorrow, he will feel more powerful and will show the world, Europe, ‘Now, I’m the king’,” she said.

“He will terrorise all of Europe with that fear… no doubt it’s a question of time, the enemy is at your door.”

Ms Guley said the nation of Ukraine hate Mr Putin “deep in their hearts”.

“He has brought much grief to our country, fear and disaster,” she said.

“He is ill in his brain and his soul – he is a person that kills children.”

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