March 1, 2022
SINGAPORE – Five days after Russia invaded the country he has called home for the last four months, life has settled into an uneasy pattern for Singaporean Ix Shen.
“When the airstrikes first started the fear was strong. By now, that fear is no longer there. It is tense, everyone knows these are hard times, but the morale here remains high,” said the 50-year-old former actor, who lives in the Podil district in Kyiv with his wife, a Ukrainian.
Over the weekend, there were air strikes followed by loud explosions and flashes of light that lit up the sky.
Friday (Feb 25) was when he first heard the sounds of gunfire, coming from the harbour not far from his home, he told The Straits Times on Monday (Feb 28). “Naturally, I ducked, and grabbed my phone,” he said. “I tried to show what the firefight was with my phone. The moment it built up to a certain intensity, I thought I better go back into the bunker, somewhere safe.”
When there is an air raid siren or the sound of shooting, Mr Shen said he and his wife and some residents take shelter in the basement carpark below their Soviet-era nine-floor apartment building, while others hide out in the stairwells.
But even after several days of turmoil, water, electricity and communications remain unaffected in his area, and people are calm.
“Everybody walks in an orderly manner, there’s no panic. Of course, we all stock up as much as we possibly can,” he said.
And yet, “everyone understands that food might become an issue, but no one is panicking and they are also buying in a very orderly fashion,” he noted.
While most essential items have not run out, Mr Shen noticed empty shelves in the fresh meat and fish sections on Monday.
The sight of Ukrainian military vehicles on their streets is another reminder that life is far from normal, but Mr Shen said he has no plans to evacuate the country for now.
In the latest of his daily Instagram updates on Monday, he reassured his followers that all remained well with him and his family.
“Good morning. Last night was relatively quiet. Everyone slept well. All is okay and safe. As you can see, everyone is queuing up and waiting for the supermarket to open so we can restock our supplies. Morale is high, everything is good,” he said in the 37-second video in English, before providing a translation in Mandarin.
In another update, Mr Shen is seen arranging heavy bags of cat litter against his windows. “I’ve dug some trenches during my days in the army, but never have I thought that I would be using cat litter as sandbags,” he said, as a siren sounded briefly in the distance.
“There’s no other building in front of my building, and if there’s going to be any stray or ricocheting bullets, my windows might be damaged, and we might get injured while we are inside. So putting cat litter over my window is just another buffer,” he told ST.
Mr Shen said his wife, a medical officer with a Ukrainian reserve unit, had not been called up yet as of Monday, and friends working in the local hospitals said that everything is still operating normally for now.
But the situation could soon become worse.
He has received an SMS from the Ukrainian government to be prepared for fighting to build up, and to prepare enough food, water and clothing to go to a bunker when air raid sirens go off.
Despite this, Ukrainians are showing resolve and determination.
Said Mr Shen: “Many Ukrainians from what I see on the social websites, they are optimistic, because the morale is high among the public, reservist soldiers and front line regular fighters… no one is backing down.”
Get live updates as the Ukraine crisis unfolds.