Ukrainian inspired by Norfolk railway describes 'fear' of life in Kyiv

Anton Kushnir, 35, and his Lego replica of Sheringham West signal box.

Anton Kushnir, 35, who created a Lego replica of Sheringham West signal box, has been describing life in wartorn Kyiv. - Credit: Submitted

A month before Russian troops invaded Ukraine, Anton Kushnir was putting the finishing touches to a Lego replica of a piece of north Norfolk’s railway. 

The 35-year-old, who lives in Kyiv with his wife and three-year-old son, first spoke with this newspaper in early February after submitting his miniature of Sheringham West signal box to Lego Ideas, a website where users can design ideas that could be turned into actual sets. 

Over the weekend, he spoke again.  

Anton Kushnir and family in Odesa

Anton Kushnir, 35, with his wife Katerina, 36, and son Nikita, 3, while on holiday in Odesa on the Black Sea coast in 2021. - Credit: Submitted

“Because of fear, the rhythm of life has changed dramatically,” he said.

 On February 24, the morning of the Russian invasion, Mr Kushnir and his family were woken by the sound of explosions.

Burnt out cars in Kyiv, Ukraine, following shelling by Russian Forces.

Burnt out cars in Kyiv, Ukraine, following shelling by Russian forces. Former MP Keith Simpson says it is now a 'war of attrition' following the Russian invasion. - Credit: PA

Since that day, an approximate two million people have fled the city - but Mr Kushnir and his wife Katerina, 36, have decided to stay in their apartment in the Ukrainian capital.  

Mr Kushnir said: “I offered for her to leave with the child, but she refused. She said she would not leave me and that it is better to stick together and not be separated.” 

For the first few days, he travelled around the district to buy as much food and water as possible for a sustainable life in the apartment. 

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When the air raid sirens wail over the city, the family hide in the pantry, and in the evening they turn on the light only in a remote room. 

“We sleep on the floor in the hallway, away from the windows,” Mr Kushnir said. “I know from survival books that there must be at least two strong walls between our location and the front of the house. 

“We constantly listen to the news on the radio or on the phone to be aware. We go out for walks only for necessary purchases. I play ball with a child in the common corridor.” 

Handout photo issued by Maia Mikhaluk of damage to property in Kyiv, Ukraine, caused by an explosion

Handout photo issued by Maia Mikhaluk of damage to property in Kyiv, Ukraine, caused by an explosion during Russia's invasion of Ukraine. - Credit: PA

His son, Nikita, does not understand much of what is happening.

He said: “When shots are heard outside the window and we are hiding in the pantry, we tell him that this is a game and we are hiding from the monsters. Then dad drives the monsters away with a flashlight.” 

Before the war, they played Lego together.

"We all need to pray for this to end soon," Mr Kushnir said. "Irreparable harm has already been done to the country.”

  • In response to the crisis, the EDP has launched an appeal to call on readers in Norfolk and Waveney to raise vital funds for the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC).
  • To support the appeal simply donate by visiting justgiving.com/fundraising/edp-ukraine and raise awareness by sharing it on social media platforms.