“Kyle, wake up, hurry”
My wife shook me as she said these words. There was real urgency in her voice.
Confused, I heard a fire truck. Or a police car.
“What’s the ruckus? Women…always dramatic…”, I thought.
Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.
Those were the air raid sirens telling us to head for shelter.
Russia was here.
My first thought was anger. We’d just been to the West of Ukraine and returned.
I had wanted to leave Ukraine at that point. I believed something was about to happen.
But my wife was pregnant with our first child.
She wanted to return to Kyiv for our next doctors appointment, and to get our dog, Hulk.
I had given in against my better judgement to accommodate my pregnant wife’s comforts.
I quickly pushed past the anger. This was not the time.
She was apologetic. Immediately.
“Kyle I’m so sorry, you were right, I should have listened…”
Much as I wanted to gloat about it, this was not the time.
I opened my phone.
I shot a quick message back to my parents telling them we were fine and then sprang into action.
First things first was for us to leave our city center apartment. We lived right in the action of the beautiful city. I knew we’d be safer in the suburbs, at her parents house.
She called them up…
I hadn’t unpacked from our trip to the West. I unzipped the bag, and began shoving as many things as possible into it.
I piled as many thermal/warm shirts into the suitcase as I could, knowing we could end up camping out at some point and I’d need to protect my wife and unborn baby.
She got a hold of her father. He set off to pick us up. The metro was not an option.
We got to their apartment, and stayed there the rest of the day.
A plan was formulated to leave in a few days once the initial rush died down.
Until 4am the next night, when it all fell apart.
I’d been restless all night as I pondered what to do.
All night, in the window, I heard a tram passing by…whoosh, clack, clack.
Every time, I thought it was a plane coming to end us.
Every time I was wrong.
Until I wasn’t.
The window lit up orange. A massive BOOM shook the entire apartment. I felt the ground shake a bit below me.
“Is this it?”
My wife wanted to run to the basement.
I said forget it, if this is it, this is it. I’m going out on the top story of the apartment building looking at the sky, now hunkered in a basement.
(Not my photo, someone in another apartment captured it live)
Thankfully, that was not the end.
But it was the beginning of the journey out of Ukraine.
It turns out it was a small plane or drone that was shot out of the sky. It landed less than a mile away from where we slept. And it destroyed apartments and injured a few people (not sure if any were killed, I never heard).
I made my decision.
We were not waiting.
We were going.
At 4:30am, myself, my wife, dog, and her father piled into the car.
He tried to drive and I told him there was zero chance it was happening.
I took the wheel, and shot out of the parking lot.
Crossing the bridge over the Dniper River in Kyiv was horrifying. I held my breathe the entire time.
On the other side, we passed a tank…pointing it’s gun right at us.
I ran probably nearly 50 stoplights over the next 30 minutes as I sped out of Kyiv, passing more tanks and military equipment.
I breathed a bit easier after we were out of Kyiv, but that was only the start of the journey.
2 nights of camping in the car in freezing temperatures, 60 hours of total travel time, and countless more moments of stress — we finally crossed the border into Poland.
My family was safe.
That was all that mattered.
I sincerely hope that you never have to go through something like this in your life.
But if you do, I hope you will remember this thread, and the information I’m about to share.
I have a temper. It’s the Italian in me.
But I also have an ability to laser-focus and tune out EVERYTHING in a stressful moment (like when my house burned down when I was 17 and I had to get my mom and dog out).
What To Do If Your Life Is On The Line
1.) Be prepared if you can
Obviously not every situation allows this, but if there are rumors or whispering of conflict or chaos happening near you, prepare. Just knowing you have supplies for a week or month will free up your brain to tackle the hard things.
2.) Take a moment alone
If you are a man, these are the moments you will be looked to for guidance. It is very likely OTHER people will be freaking out. DEMAND, yes, DEMAND to be left alone to think through it. 5 minutes is all it should take.
3.) Sort things right away into 2 categories:
– What you can control
– What you can’t control
In my case, I had zero control over whether something fell out of the sky and killed my family. I had control over when we left, how we left, and what routes we would take.
4.) Formulate 3 plans
Rank them in order of likeliness of success combined with level of risk. You also should factor in mental strain/ breakdown (i.e. will you/someone break down in a day or so and then you’ll have to leave at a less opportune time).
5.) Gut. Listen to your gut.
That gut feeling is a survival instinct that has been honed inside of your ancestors for centuries. The blood that flows through your veins is because the people before you survived difficult situations. This is YOUR moment.
6.) Be prepared to have the plan changed
In moments of danger or chaos, things do not go as planned. If you come up with a solid plan but are forced to audible, you must be willing to process this quickly and seamlessly.
7.) Act with decisiveness
Do not second-guess yourself. You will make things worse. Once a decision is made, if you logically made the best decision, stick with it. Do not doubt yourself.
8.) Conserve energy
Crisis situations are often marathons, not sprints. I learned this again when my child was born…after 26 hours of labor. You must pace yourself and not sprint balls to the wall from the outset. In our case, we had days of camping in the freezing cold.
9.) Envision something positive
The thing that pushed me all of this was thinking about my child being born. Imaging my family and I all somewhere. Peaeful. On September 21st, 2022 that vision finally became reality when we welcomed a baby girl.
Just remember, if your life is on the line:
1. Be prepared
2. Take a moment
3. Can control/can’t control
4. 3 plans
5. Listen to your gut
6. Be flexible
7. Be decisive
8. Pace yourself
9. Have a vision
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