Nikolaus Sires lives in Dnipro, Ukraine. Originally from New Orleans, he bought an apartment in Dnipro, where he lives with his Ukrainian fiancée, four months ago, because he found the people nice and the area peaceful. On March 3, in the middle the night, he heard that Zaporizhzhia had been attacked.
The Russian troops appear to have just begun mortaring and shelling the nuclear power station. It was being shot at; Video is availableHe said. We thought that the nuclear power station might explode in those hours.
To sires, ReasonNancy Rommelmann contacted her by telephone while on the ground at Warsaw, Poland on March 5. As of the publication, she was on her way by train to Lviv. Sires discussed her experience in Ukraine before the outbreak of war, and the feeling it was like to think that a nuclear powerplant within an hour might melt down.
Below is his transcript, which has been edited to improve clarity and length.
“We wake up every morning and see people shouting, ‘They’re attacking nuclear power plant’. This is what you’ll see on the news this morning at 3:00 AM. This is only 80km away. It is time to get your bags packed. Because we were under curfew, you can’t walk on the streets between 8:00 pm and 6:00 am. We decided to stay put. They could even consider you a saboteur and have you shot. It was impossible to escape so we had to remain there to watch and see.
“At the moment, we don’t even know if this bomb will fly. It’s becoming a normal thing. It’s starting to make sense to me how Ukrainians have become accustomed to 8 years of conflict and pretend that nothing is happening. Telephone alerts and air raid sirens are constant. “Hey Alarm, get to the shelter!” Is it really? It’s like a nightmare. My fiancée’s in another room trying to relax. Her mother [and daughter]Live five km away Her mother isn’t ready to move. It is her home. “Ukraine” is her home. Why should you leave? I mean, until they’re dropping bombs in her neighborhood…maybe she’ll change her mind when it’s too late. So that’s what I think. It’s what I see. You want to remain here. Everyone wants mom to stay behind. That is something I can understand. My mom was too important to me. However, it can get to the stage where you just want to throw your mother in a car to tell her, “You’re coming, let’s go.” There are more problems the longer you wait.
“There was an eight-year conflict but [for many Ukrainians]This is almost like someone saying in Montana, “I don’t see any problem on the Mexican frontier,” as they are not very close. There may be a problem within the Donbas, but you won’t know it if you aren’t there. Because you can’t see the conflict, it is difficult to know if there’s anything going on. Many Ukrainians who live far from conflict are able to forget it, as it isn’t directly affecting their lives. This mentality is that everything will be okay.
“Right now [in Dnipro]Although we are not being attacked, that may change anytime. Although I attempt to remain optimistic, I do see the reality. This isn’t good. It’s not good. [first] attack happened on the…was it the 24th in the morning? 25th? The 25th? You see it all the time. It’s like you sleep and wake up in a battle.
“I am from New Orleans, Louisiana. I nearly stayed during Katrina. My friend persuaded me to go. I was like: “You have to leave.” It will be terrible. I’ve seen hurricanes and I understand how dangerous they can become. Her mother, I think she’s about 65 or so, she probably never…I mean, you’ve had Soviet times, but she has never directly seen a conflict and doesn’t understand that your house could be blown up tomorrow. These are the things we’re witnessing. Aparthotels in Kiev, and elsewhere. When a rocket strikes the building, it’s over. This is it.
“[Ukrainians]They are strong, resilient individuals that I love. They are very adept at accepting the cards that have been dealt to them. You can see hundreds of people in the middle of town making Molotov cocktails. They are donating food, medicine and other supplies to troops. Camouflage nets are being made to conceal equipment on the ground. They’re all doing the best they can. They pay attention to what’s around them and are eager to do their part.
“I have no idea what is going to happen.” Not at all. You’re just playing an odd game. There are many stories about people being killed while trying to flee. I’m sure they demolished a railroad line in the vicinity of Kiev and Irpin, so that trains can’t travel through it. Some bridges are being destroyed. To be honest, we are worried about getting on the roads and getting trapped somewhere. Or getting hurt. We are secure here.”
I still long to travel. Yes, definitely. Most likely, we’ll be heading to Poland. However, we were looking at the videos here of train stations. It’s hard to believe that it is possible. My fiancée’s car was in the shop and they were having problems getting parts since this war started. The car she has is an older Lada. The car could end up on the side road. This is like trying to create a plan. But it has so many flaws.
“We don’t want to get into a worse position. We are happy right where we are. We are stocked up. New Orleans is a place where it feels almost like you’re preparing to face a hurricane. Food is available to us. It is possible to make food without the use of electricity. Lighting is possible with our resources. We are able to purchase medical supplies. It’s necessary to purchase her various medicines. But that’s not all we care about. What if she doesn’t have the money to buy it anymore? She’ll probably die anyway. These are the current lines. Every drugstore has lines and it is difficult to find ibuprofen. How do you find it if we don’t have the right product? That’s what worries me. Walmart is not available in Ukraine. It is impossible to go to just one shop and get everything you need. It’s almost like a quest every day. It’s necessary to get here potatoes. It is necessary to visit this place for medication. For candles, I must go to this place. I need to go here for batteries…and right now a lot of the stores are closed. It is impossible to buy another mobile phone at this time. This means that if your cell phone is damaged, it’s impossible to go to the store and get a new one.
I don’t know what to say. It’s just…slowly I’m watching the necessities of life disappear because of this war, because obviously the supply lines are interrupted. It’s hard to know for sure what the truth is. Social media is full of propaganda and false stories. It’s not clear if we can leave. Because I have seen footage of cars being shot in the car, I fear we might be shot. You could see that they aren’t soldiers. They look like an elderly couple with bullet holes in their car. This is like saying, “I don’t want this to be us.”
And we can see it seems like Ukraine is fighting back. All the weapons and equipment aid that has been coming in to help them are proving very helpful. Russia has stalled on the side of a road without gas to fuel its tanks, and with troops starving. Next came the nuclear thing. Putin is going to use nuclear weapons to eliminate the Ukrainians. We listened to his speech. He is determined to eliminate Ukrainians. They are not his favorite. It’s almost like the new Jews. It’s scary.
They told us to make Molotovs. Everything I need to make Molotov cocktails is in my possession. To make bombs I bought hair spray, fireworks, and hair spray. In my new apartment, I am making bombs. It’s true.
“I was coming.” [to Dnipro]It’s because it is my favorite place. It’s easy to walk and go to the parks. Food’s cheap. They are kind and welcoming. They aren’t aggressive. This is just horrendous. The fact that there has been a war for eight years is something they are denying. It’s hard for me to convince the three Ukrainian women that it is time to flee Ukraine. Like in the morning, my fiancée wants to leave. “I believe we should remain” at night. For two weeks, that’s been my life. We must not leave.