'The fear is indescribable': testimonials of Havas staff in war-torn Ukraine

Images taken by Havas employees during Ukraine invasion
Each Havas employee captures a day in the life of a country at war

Four adlanders from a Havas affiliate in Ukraine shed light on their experiences of the Russian invasion.

Caught up in a war clouded by misinformation, four adlanders from a Havas affiliate in Ukraine offer their personal experiences of Russia's bloody invasion. 

Each account captures a day in the life of people caught up in a military incursion, urging international audiences to share these updates broadly and show the world the atrocities Russian forces are inflicting. 

Major Ukranian cities have been coming under increasingly heavy bombardment, with Russian shelling preventing the evacuation of civilians from besieged cities, as Ukrainians face 13 days of invasion.

Read their testimonials here:

Alena, account director

We woke up at 5:40am to a telephone call from my grandmother. She was screaming hysterically on the other side of the line: "Russia is bombing us..."

In an hour, we packed our stuff and got into the car to head for Irpin, where the kindergarten managed by my husband is located. There are five groups in the kindergarten. We immediately contacted every parent to inform them that, in case they need help, they can come to the kindergarten, where there is a basement stocked up with food. 

Some have left Kyiv, and those who have stayed are ready to help our military in every possible way. Currently, we are cooking lunches for our warriors. For the time of the shooting, my husband stays on the second floor, making sure the enemy isn't walking the streets.

When the attacks are over, I work in the basement launching media campaigns and co-ordinating the actions of the creative team. We prepare the content that helps tell the world and the citizens of Russia about the crimes that Putin's regime is committing on our land.

The kids are already used to getting dressed quickly and heading to the shelter. But they are still awfully scared when we are being bombed... However, we believe that we and the civilised world will be victorious. 

Daria, senior copywriter 

I woke up from my mother's call at four in the morning: "Dasha, it has begun." I was not surprised – I expected brutality from the Russians.

I went to take a bath and began to [pack] a "force majeure" suitcase. I had been [packing] it for four hours, because I could not concentrate. The most urgent question my boyfriend and I faced was “leave, or stay in Kyiv?”. The war has begun. My mum is on the other side of Kyiv. We have two cats and no cat carriers.

We decided to stay. We love Kyiv and don't want to see Russian flags here. And now we live in two "houses” – in a shelter during explosions, and at night, and in the morning we go up to the apartment to feed the cats and wash our faces. 

The first hit on an apartment building happened a few blocks from my mum. Then they closed the Left Bank. I was in a panic. I couldn't work. Couldn't think clearly. I saw that my colleagues in the chats became more active, but for the first four days I simply could not force myself to think and be creative.

Today, with the help of tears and persuasion, I moved my mother to my shelter. What will happen tomorrow? I don't know, but I believe in our army and our victory. Glory to Ukraine! (Slava Ukraini!) 

Inna, senior copywriter 

On 25 February, my husband, my two sons and I fled from Kyiv to a remote village – because it is more convenient to spend the night in the village than in the Kyiv basement, although eight children and 10 adults live in the same old house with us. All facilities are outside: water in the well, no WiFi, no shop... but all relatives are safe. 

And you know what else is absent? Explosions. There is no expectations about what else the old man [Putin] from the bunker will order? Imagine there are no "modern facilities", but that's OK. 

We have no fear, no tears either. There is clear understanding that we need to do what we can. It's not just important! This helps to distract yourself from the prevailing stress everywhere. 

Therefore, during the past couple of days, we have been actively working with the whole team and with colleagues from all over the country on various campaigns. 

We are running an information war, informing the world what is really happening. We are at war with Russia, but verbally. 

We have all become much stronger, wiser and more united! I believe Ukraine will win! And it is very important not to be left along in this struggle. Glory to Ukraine! Slava Ukraini!

Julia, senior designer 

On Thursday 24 February, we were still relatively calm, but by Friday hell began. We woke up at 5am from a strong explosion nearby, the house shook and the car alarm went off in the parking lot. 

Our military blew up a bridge 2km from us to stop and destroy a column of tanks. This fear is indescribable, because it seems that every explosion is directed against your life. 

We hid in the distance with the dogs we had to walk. But sabotage groups appeared in the city, walking the streets, breaking into houses and firing on civilian vehicles. 

Over time, we learned that they had left marks to correct the fire, and then two blocks away, they fired at the orphanage. In the evening, there was constant shelling, we held hands, cried and said goodbye, and I dreamed of a normal life. I wanted to walk dogs, play board games and watch funny videos...

When everything calmed down, we went up to the apartment to eat, gather strength and maybe work a little with colleagues... a rocket flew nearby to an apartment building... 

For three days in a row, it is very difficult to understand that at any moment life can end, either yours or your family's. And every time I go to the shelter, I think that now we will definitely be blown up... they are mad with anger. 

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