‘You'd better not wake up!': How Twitter users remember the day of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine

Illustration created with OpenAI by Global Voices

A year ago, on February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine and began bombing the country. A Twitter user @KantWilde, who describes herself as a Toronto-based journalist, currently working for the BBC World Service, asked online users how they remember that fateful day. As of today, she has collected 173 answers, from people of various countries and nationalities. Global Voices translated some of those tweets.

She herself said:

I tried to remember what happened on February 24 last year. in general, it started for me at 23:00 at 10 pm our time, one of the OSINT-accounts on twitter wrote that there was activity on the intercom frequencies of Russian fighter jets

Below are some of the memories of the day of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

my husband woke me up in the morning, brought a cup of coffee to bed, chatted a little about something, and when I finished drinking, he said — The war has begun. So he distracted me from my phone so that I would have time to drink the last coffee in that life which was over. He is great.

Another Twitter user wrote:

I woke up, read the news, bought three tickets from the country within 20 minutes. For myself, my son and the dog. We haven't been home since.

Here is what another Twitter user has to say about that day:

I was sleeping. A friend who lives in a time zone of  +4 hours from my time sent a message “You'd better not wake up.” In general, you cannot describe the first sensations from reading the news more eloquently. Only the desire not to wake up. And then I cried for a long time in the bathroom. Feels like an eternity has passed

The sense of unreality is echoed in this tweet:

For some reason, the dog got up early, at 6.  I quietly went for a walk with her, as always I started flipping through the news on my mobile .. I ran back stomping and woke up my husband with the words “we are bombing Kyiv, what should we do?

Some recall how their first reaction was to protest:

It was 2 days after my employees got back from their sick leave, and I was going to go skiing on the 25th for the weekend after 14 working days.  As a result, all morning on the 24th I called/wrote to friends in Ukraine and was fucking horrified, after work I got beaten on the square, while protesting with my colleagues

For many, the date of February 24 is a reminder of the rapid deaths of friends:

I practically don't remember. I fell asleep early, reading something at work, and was awakened at 7 in the morning by a friend leaving for work – he asked for time off and did not go anywhere – and his cry “Ginny, get the fuck up, the Third World War began.” Two weeks later, we learned that our friend, a filmmaker from Kharkiv, had died.

Many express a feeling of life losing meaning:

Drove to work, everything was so good. The delirium of the fucked-up grandfather [this what Putin is called by Russians who are against his policies] has not caught on for a long time. Arrived at work – the war began. Two days of doomscrolling. Since then, this year, I have never felt that I was doing something important and necessary against the backdrop of the war. Everything is small and useless.

Another common experience is shame:

On February 23, I called my father to congratulate him (professional military man, retired for 30 years), and he replied that he did not accept congratulations and that he was ashamed of the army. Before going to bed, we tried to buy tickets to fly to the Russian Federation for May, the payment did not go through, and we went to bed. We woke up at 8 in the morning, reading the news while our Ukrainian neighbor behind the wall was loudly crying

Some, though in Russia, live on the very border with Ukraine, and recall that day with the direct sound of bombing:

We woke up around 4-5 in the morning because the windows and the door on the balcony were shaking, we lived in Belgorod
It was not clear what was happening, and then when we entered the social media chats, and everyone understood.

The war also separated many families, as this Twitter user recalls:


At 10 I called the Polish embassy about visa documents for my daughter

No one answered

At 12 I was at work

Saw some cannibals around (co-workers who supported the war) 

We are in Poland
Daughter in Belarus
Son in Armenia

There is no return

The war is also, for many, the trigger for exile:

The girl, with whom they were communicating, wrote: “And what will happen to all of us now? What to do?” I did not understand and opened the second text message, and there a friend wrote: “While you were sleeping, the war began.” I was able to leave after the persecution only in April and all that time I had not been home and apparently I will not be there soon.

For many, neighboring countries became the most accessible safe havens:

The day before, my husband and I discussed right before going to bed that there would be no war after all. There can't be. On the morning of February 24, I woke up later than my husband and the first thing I heard from him was “the war began.” I cried every day for 2 weeks in a row until we flew to Kazakhstan, to my mother.

Helplessness, with a sense of premonition, is a commonly shared experience:

I don’t remember how I woke up, but I remember very well that I could fall asleep only on the 3rd day. I could not eat, think about anything, exist. I did not let go of the phone, I cried and could not believe it. Although I have been “waiting” for this war since the end of 2020. A black hole opened up inside me.

Many also wonder at how to continue daily life in such a context: 

I've been listening to the news all the time lately. We just had a day, I went for groceries and heard that he attacked. I cried in the parking lot for two hours. And then I went home, and felt nuts that life goes on here, the children go to school, spring starts. And somewhere my motherland kills people.

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