Under Russian Assault, Kharkiv Kids, Pets Huddle on Subway Station Floor

Valentyna Dylova feels both terrified and strong as she hears random bursts of artillery on the ground above her.

The 29-year-old Ukrainian citizen communicated with Newsweek via WhatsApp from Kharkiv, Ukraine, where's she's lived for about a year and is now inside an underground metro station-turned-bomb shelter. She and many others await their next moves as they seek refuge from the Russian military.

Individuals, including this elderly woman, hide for cover underground in a metro station in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Valentyna Dylova said hundreds of people were hiding from the Russian military in the station-turned-bomb-shelter. Valentyna Dylova

Ukrainians are sharing food and water, she said. From "time to time" she and others hear explosions. Blankets are being utilized to stave off the cold.

"I am not alone," she told Newsweek. "I'm with my husband and hundreds of people who are hiding and waiting for the bombarding—for the attack of Russian troops again. They are here with pets, they are lying on the floor with children, small children.

"They sleep here, try to sleep some of them. [O]thers try to stay strong. Some of them even communicate, make friends and do everything to cheer up each other," she continued.

kharkiv ukraine underground russian invasion
"At the moment the safest place is underground," Valentyna Dylova said. Here, Kharkiv, Ukraine residents feed a dog in the city's metro station. Valentyna Dylova

Her next course of action remains unknown. She seemed steadfast in staying where she is, among others.

"At the moment the safest place is underground. [N]ow, it's not safe to go out at all and as we see on our official news and the direction of the Russian border, they want to make their land corridor to the Crimea that they invaded and escalated," she said.

When asked if she was able to sleep, she said she tried but her body wouldn't allow it.

Dylova, an English teacher, is originally from the village of Yakymivka, near Melitopol and Zaporizhia, in the southeastern part of Ukraine. She said she personally doesn't know anyone who was injured or killed.

"I feel [the] support of our people," she said. "The most horrible thing is that you don't know what to expect [the] next moment and when it will be finished."

kharkiv ukraine underground russian invasion
"Hundreds" of people seek shelter underground as Russia invades Ukraine. Valentyna Dylova said accurate information has been hard to come by. Valentyna Dylova

She said her brother, 10, and parents are located somewhere in the southern part of Ukraine closer to the Russian border. Dylova has tried to communicate with them, since "they are very close to the situation" and in proximity to areas that contain Russian military presence.

But she said she is unsure of the information she has heard, saying that it's been both difficult to get accurate information and that some information may be intentionally false.

She said she has recently spoken to her brother, who told her he didn't want to die and is petrified.

"I think that all children around Ukraine are feeling like this now. [M]ost of the Ukrainians thought it couldn't be possible in the 21st century," she said. "We thought that we learned the lessons of second World War, but unfortunately no, we are doing the same mistakes and world leaders continue to do the same mistakes and we need real actions to stop this war."

kharkiv ukraine underground russian invasion
Many taking shelter underground are wondering what moves they will make next and when the Russian attacks will end. Here, a cat is seen huddled trying to stay warm in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Valentyna Dylova

When asked if American and European leaders are doing enough to quell the fears of Ukrainians, Dylova said she is grateful for all the help already provided by multiple countries but that more "radical" assistance is necessary to get Putin's attention because "people are dying here" and "we really need more."

"I want the world to know first of all that we need real help, not concerns because it's not enough to stop Putin," she said. "We definitely need strong actions, not concerns. [W]e need to do everything to stop Russia economically, destroy their opportunities to lead this war because it will not stop just at Ukraine. And Ukraine deserves to stay here because people here are brave, they are free, and they are strong and they want to live in their own country and not under the rule of some leader [Putin]."