- Ukrainians sent Insider reporters their last 'normal' photos, taken just before the war broke out.
- The images show coffee dates, happy newborns, and beloved pets they left behind.
- They told Insider how distant their former lives now feel.
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Images of Ukraine are now of ruined cities, shell-shocked refugees, and burned-out tanks.
For 44 million Ukrainians, this 'new world' quickly erased the lives they had up until February 24, when they awoke to the nightmare of Russia's invasion of their homeland.
Only memories captured in the last photos of babies, plane journeys, beloved pets, and happy selfies remain of what their country, their daily lives, and their dreams once were.
Ukrainians, many now made refugees by Russia's invasion, shared poignant images of their final moments before the war broke out with Insider reporters.
Niko from Kharkiv shared this photo of his family, enjoying one of life's great pleasures: pizza."This is is the last photo before the war. In this photo, I'm on the left, my wife is on the left, in the middle is my brother, his wife, and two of his sons."We don't eat pizza anymore and don't sleep well either. We have been on the road for three weeks now and just found a place to live."Here we come to our senses: tired, nervous, stressed, no money, and very sad. We hide from every loud sound. But we are whole, and this is very pleasing."
A change of perspective
"Our lives have changed a lot after the evening this picture was taken.
"This quote says that 'nothing really matters,' but it appeared to be wrong. Many things actually matter – like knowing you and your family live in peace and quiet. The things I cared about before had no sense to me now. All the 'problems' disappeared. Now I see what is really important."
The last date
Nikita met his girlfriend Kristina, who studies art in Vienna, in Kyiv airport, On February 22. They are both 21-years-old.
The next day, they arrived at their hometown Kherson. They were very happy to reconnect and are having coffee.
On February 24, Kherson airport and bridges were destroyed, cutting them out from the outside world.
These photos show Olesya from Kyiv with her baby girl. The photo was taken a week before the war started.
A little over two months old, the newborn has lived nearly half her life as a war baby.
An artist who had to abandon her art
Xenija Curly was a concert photographer and artist living in Kyiv. Now, her life is just "one backpack and a cat," she told Insider.
"Before the war, my home was a studio, I'm an artist and a concert photographer, and I had to leave it all. I took my film cameras with me, but I couldn't take any art supplies.
"I am still trying to get any news from my city, but it is not promising. Russians loot homes and leave behind mines."
I don't know how, when, or what I will come back to if I will. I have questioned myself lately about it. Coming back to a place you left with fire in a sky and bombing sounds won't be easy. I won't ever feel safe there.
The thought of something that could happen at any moment will haunt me. I already let go of all the stuff I had. I mean material stuff. It's most likely gone. No one can really update me on my apartment because it's too dangerous."
Oleksii Rozanov shared these photos with Insider, showing his routine, which — like many — revolves around the cafe.
The image on the left "reminds me about the days when I could meet with friends for dinner, and we could chat about plans for future vacations, discuss stuff like cars, movies, games, and stories from our lives. It also reminds me about romantic evenings with wine and pizza and how simple things were before the war," he said.
Rozanov said the photo of the coffee cup "represents calmness and my daily ritual of drinking coffee at my favorite place in Dnipro. It also means coziness for me because when I look at it, I remember how I felt safe and calm during rainy weather and knowing that tomorrow there will be a peaceful day and clear sky."
When I get home, my safe space will be waiting for me where I can relax with a book or a movie. The soft and sweet taste on my lips also reminds me about childhood and how calm it was."