Olena Gnes has been hiding in a basement in Kyiv with her three children, the youngest only a few months old, since the Russian invasion began, while her husband fights to defend Ukraine.
On Wednesday, she took advantage of the relative quiet to bring her children home for a quick shower and to stock up on supplies before returning to the shelter. "I thought maybe the children will play a little bit over there ... but they were afraid to stay at home. They were asking all the time, are bombs flying?" she told CNN late Wednesday.
This is the new reality for Gnes, her family and millions of Ukrainians — an unrelenting and exhausting fear as they watch the war unfold, and hear news from relatives in other cities of the destruction there.
"There is the feeling, the constant fear, like it is somewhere in my stomach ... in my heart," she said. "People are tired to be afraid, every day, every night."
She added that she had hoped Western countries — specifically the United States and NATO members — would come to their defense. "They are so powerful and so cool," she said. "But it looks like this is our problem ... Maybe I watch too much Hollywood movies."
"We've been in the Soviet Union, there was nothing good for us Ukrainians in the Soviet Union — and we will not want to come back," she said.
But, she added, as Ukraine's forces push back hard against Russian troops, people's spirits have risen with the resistance.
"Ukrainians are now united like never before," she said. "We have companies that give for free medications, even give salaries in advance ... Even in 2014 (during the annexation of Crimea) there were people who sympathized with Putin. But now, nobody would meet him with bread and breakfast ... People are very united, and they say they come to save Ukrainians."