Early on the morning of June 26, Kyiv resident Bogdan Lega was awoken to the loud whistling sound of a missile flying toward his apartment.
A split second later, the first missile struck the apartment building. Lega told the Kyiv Independent that the powerful blast threw him out of his bed and up toward the ceiling, causing him to hit his head.
He figured there would be more missiles. He grabbed his two dogs and started running toward the door of his apartment. Shortly afterward, he was proven right.
Four missiles struck the nine-story building and a kindergarten that morning after nearly three weeks of relative peace in the capital, killing the husband and father of a family and injuring six others. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said Russia’s objective in the attack was to “intimidate Ukrainians” before the NATO summit that was held on June 28-30.
The attack came at the beginning of a week during which Russia intensified its long-range attacks, hitting civilian targets far from the frontlines.
A day later on June 27, a Russian missile strike hit a shopping mall in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk, killing at least 20 people and injuring another 59.
From what he remembers, Lega and his two dogs had nearly made it out the door when the second missile hit his Kyiv building, throwing them onto the floor as pieces of the missile flew over their heads. He says that’s when a fire broke out in the apartment causing a cloud of dust that made it difficult to breathe.
He stood up and again headed toward the door. They had almost made it to the building’s entrance when the third missile struck. The blastwave threw all three of them toward the ceiling.
Lega said he did his best to hold on to his dogs as tightly as possible, trying to make sure that they didn't hit their heads. “I didn’t think about myself at that moment – I only thought about how to save my dogs,” he said. “They are my only relatives.”
But there was smoke everywhere and it was becoming even harder to breathe. “At that moment, I didn’t know if I was going to die from missiles or the smoke,” he said.
Although his face was covered in blood and his leg was injured, Lega and his dogs had just made it outside the building when the fourth missile struck. He says he remembers it as the most powerful blast out of all four, causing one of his dogs to run away.
As fragments of the missile flew all over the place, Lega could barely hear anything as he looked everywhere for his dog. Finally reunited, he was taken to the hospital to get stitches.
With his apartment destroyed, Lega doesn’t know what to do next. He says he is currently living with his friends and acquaintances until he can save enough money to rent his own place.
Years-long investment gone
Despite having spent years saving up money to purchase their own apartment, Vira Kostenko-Kuznyetsova and her family told the Kyiv Independent they never got the chance to move into their dream home.
Kostenko-Kuznyetsova, along with her husband and five-year-old son Luka, were supposed to move into their new home after a year and a half of renovations. She says Luka was excited to finally get his own room – the three of them used to live in a one-room apartment far from the center.
The 36-year-old mother had her future mapped out. Kostenko-Kuznyetsova had chosen the apartment because it was centrally located and surrounded by parks. She thought it would be a good place to raise her son. She even knew which kindergarten Luka was going to attend.
Kostenko-Kuznyetsova also really liked her neighbors, including the man who was killed and his family.
But her plans fell apart when the family got a call from her neighbor early morning on June 26, informing them that their apartment had been hit by a missile. Kostenko-Kuznyetsova and her family were in Warsaw at the time.
“We thought she was calling the wrong person,” Kostenko-Kuznyetsova told the Kyiv Independent.
But Kostenko-Kuznyetsova recognized her apartment right away in the photos being shared on social media. “From the pictures it was clear that there was no apartment at all,” she said. “The floor was gone.”
Kostenko-Kuznyetsova and her husband hadn’t finished paying off their debt for the new apartment, and she said that they’d most likely need to finish paying them off despite the destruction.
While the family may be eligible for government funding to rebuild their home, it is still unclear how and when those programs will begin dispersing payments and Kostenko-Kuznyetsova says it would be too costly for them to finance renovations on their own.
She also says moving in would be “too painful” after what happened to her neighbors.
While everyday life has slowly returned to the capital that has become a fortress of concrete checkpoints and anti-tank obstacles, the threat of potential missile attacks has not disappeared.
In his evening address on July 2, President Volodymyr Zelensky reminded the nation that there may be “a feeling of relaxation” in many cities further away from the battlefield, but “the war is not over, (and) its cruelty is increasing in some places.”
The war “cannot be forgotten,” Zelensky said.