During the first week of my reporting trip to Lviv, a city in western Ukraine, I slept through the sirens when they sounded in the middle of the night. So did thousands of Lvivites. “It’s like a lullaby, isn’t it?” mused a fellow freelancer, who had been in the embattled separatist region of Donbas just before the war began.

It wasn’t until I moved to an apartment facing the city square in my second week that the sirens began to seep into my consciousness. I was much closer to their source, which seemed to me like a dolorous, slow bugle amplified right outside my windows. A man’s gruff voice followed the sirens, announcing in Ukrainian that everyone should head to the nearest bomb shelter as an attack on the region was imminent. At night, past the 11pm curfew imposed on most Ukrainian cities, the siren reverberated through Lviv and its eerily, deserted streets. I would sit in bed and wait for the all-clear siren, which came about 30 minutes later.

Recurring nightmares started to haunt me. Each time, I saw plumes of smoke in the distance outside my apartment. I would grab my notebooks and try to leave, but fail because I couldn’t find my contact lenses. My dreams spilled into waking life. I ended up carrying my notebooks everywhere I went, even if I was just leaving the apartment for a quick meal. I didn’t want to run the risk—no matter how minimal—of losing the stories of all the people I had met, if my building was hit.

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