Living through air raids in Kiev: Coping with the physical and psychological effects
More Sirens Being Heard in Kiev
The sirens in the Ukrainian capital Kiev have been sounding more frequently in recent weeks, especially at night. This has psychological and physical consequences for the people.
A Typical Day in Kiev Interrupted by Air Raid Warning
On a central square of Kiev, a large number of people were strolling around when an air raid alarm erupted. Most people did not rush to the nearest shelter, as they had a feeling that this time the alarm would be lifted soon.
The air raid sirens have been sounding more frequently in Kiev for several weeks, with massive rocket or drone attacks following some of these warnings in May. At least the bombardment has decreased somewhat in June.
Lack of Access to shelters
Inhabitants like Sasha are opting not to go to shelter: "I am handling it normally; it does not bother me much. I sympathize with those who are constantly affected by bombardment and dying for nothing."
She believes that the next stable shelter, which is a subway station, is already too far from her location. Some people in Kiev remain calm like Sasha, but not everyone.
"Alarm is Affecting Sleep"
Svetlana says that her eight-year-old granddaughter often needs to be reassured. She herself takes a pragmatic approach to air raid warnings but also experiences the physical consequences of the nightly attacks.
"I currently stay in the flat and make sure that I am protected by multiple walls. The alarm is affecting my sleep very badly. Sometimes a body gets so tired that it simply shuts off and people sleep through the alarm, which is not good."
Viktor expresses a similar sentiment by stating that he often feels tired these days. Psychologically, he copes with the air raid warnings, but he also observes that others are struggling.
"At the beginning, my wife and my sister were taking tranquilizers. I am coping better with it. It is particularly hard for those who have fled and returned. I know a friend of mine who has not been here since the second day of the war. She came back in the summer, heard an alarm, got a panic attack, and left for Portugal again," he shared.
"We Still Try to Lead Normal Lives"
Anastasiya is back in Kiev after living for a while in Berlin, and this is the first time she is visiting her family since the invasion. She is still grappling with the latest air raid warning.
"I almost cursed everything, especially Russia. It is crazy. It is summertime, and we still try to lead normal lives even during alarms by staying together and talking a lot."
Potential Long-term Consequences
The air raids on Kiev at night, in addition to the immediate danger of rockets or their falling debris, can bring about long-term health effects. Neurologist Olexander Balitskyy can confirm this, as he is increasingly seeing patients with this concern.
Balitskyy warned that chronic fatigue should not be underestimated because the nervous system is damaged, and the psyche is a part of it. There is a risk of insomnia, which carries risks for the brain. The brain should be resting at night, but if it is not, chronic diseases may develop.
Balitskyy recommended Aromatherapy as a quick and effective approach to deal with stress. "Certain scents stimulate the brain and have a calming effect, as do colors, especially green," he says.
He also suggested developing fixed routines to follow in the event of an air raid alarm. Ignoring the sirens, particularly if there is frequent bombardment, should not be an option.
Concern for Family
Anastasiya, who is visiting Kiev, is unlikely to suffer from sleep deprivation when she returns to Berlin. However, she worries about her family and hopes that awareness of the situation in her country does not wane in Germany.
"It is a completely different life there. You see the war on television, but it is far away. From a distance, you will never understand what it is like to hear sirens and bombardment - and thanking God for being alive."