Nadia has lived in Kharkiv, Ukraine her entire life. She’s never been prouder of that fact until now.
The city is beautiful, she said, but it’s the people who are the “real treasure.”
“[It’s] the courage of our people. It’s the ability to help each other, to self-organize,” she said. “So many people joined territorial defense forces. So many people became volunteers. So many people help each other.”
“Before the war, many of us were just inhabitants. But now, we all became citizens. Now we are nation.”
Nadia, 37, is a freelance designer who works with clients from around the world. She would walk through parks with friends. She had plans.
But the war brought that to a full stop.
“It was like a total and complete shock. I didn’t want to believe it will happen,” she said. “…Kharkiv was a Russian speaking city, and many of our people, we have relatives in Russia. To think they will attack us is something unbelievable. But unbelievable things happened, and here we are.”
The streets of Kharkiv now look empty as many have fled. What was previously the bustling of people has turned into the chronic “rumbling of artillery,” Nadia said.
Recently, Nadia was at the supermarket. As she was getting ready to pay for her food, there was a sudden “boom, boom, boom.” The store closed and she couldn’t buy her food.
Then as she was walking home, she saw what had happened. It was a drone strike.
“One woman, her leg was torn. It’s always in my mind. She had a pet dog or a cat and she just wanted to buy some food for her pet.”
Witnessing these types of attacks has somewhat become the norm.
At another grocery store she frequents, there was a day when she was waiting in line and something nearby exploded. The gym Nadia used to frequent has been bombed. And just moments before she spoke to CBS News in a video call on Sunday, Nadia said she watched from her window as a plane dropped a bomb.
Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of war crimes for its attacks on Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, saying that Russian troops had targeted civilian areas that had no military facilities nearby. Russian forces had attacked the region’s administrative building on Freedom Square and at least six people were killed.
There are now two simple rules of safety, Nadia said: Keep tape crossed on your windows to prevent glass from shattering; and if an explosion is close, quickly run “two walls deep” inside your home and hide.
Watching all of this unfold — within less than two weeks — has felt like a “millennium” to Nadia.
“No one here remembers what day it is now,” she said. “Everyone knows just the number of the day of the war.”
Even still, Nadia considers herself lucky given the situation. Unlike many others in Ukraine, she still has her home, electricity and internet.
And while she is scared, she is mostly enraged — an emotion that she thinks is helping her to keep going.
It’s also why she refuses to evacuate. She is looking to volunteer in her community, just as many others who stayed have decided to do.
“This is my city. This is my land,” she said. “I look around me and see all this stuff. My whole life is here. Why should I leave? Because some crazy psycho who decided to level my city?”
As the days of war continue, Nadia is passing her time trying to stay as calm as possible, though it’s difficult. With her cat at her side, she spends time embroidering, thinking of her plans and hopes for when the war will come to an end.
“I want to travel to Ukraine, I want to see all the cities. I want to see them all,” she said. “…I want to learn how to swim. I want to go to the seaside. I haven’t seen the seaside in 20 years.”