At the sound of the siren, two little girls quickly unroll a mattress on the floor, while their mother carries the third, asleep, to a closet.
In kyiv, faced with Russian air attacks almost every night since the beginning of May, we adapt as best we can to take shelter and sleep as much as possible.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the alerts once again lasted around three o'clock, marking the twelfth and thirteenth night of attacks this month.
Lyudmyla Denyssenko, 44, mother of three girls, explains that in the beginning, when the siren sounded on her phone and in the street, the family took refuge in the back of the apartment, behind the walls, occupying themselves with activities day-to-day, like online music lessons.
But when nighttime attacks escalated, parents bought extra mattresses and set up places to sleep away from windows.
"Everyone gets up, takes their pillow, their blanket and goes to bed" in a specific place, explains Lioudmyla, 44, who refrains from being afraid to reassure the children.
"Even if it's not very comfortable, at least the girls get enough sleep. Otherwise they wouldn't be in a state to study" the next day.
The mother sleeps in the cubbyhole with Toussia, 4 years old. Her husband shares the hallway with Katia, 10, and Tonia, 7. The dogs are at their feet.
"The alarm is when missiles fly," explains little Toussia. "We go into the closet, I take a toy with me".
Despite calls from the authorities to go down to the shelters, many Kievans remain in their apartments, particularly in a hallway or the bathroom, because very often the buildings do not have cellars or they are not fitted out, and the metro stations are not necessarily quickly accessible.
"My children sleep in a cubbyhole," even admitted to AFP a senior Ukrainian government official on condition of anonymity.
In mid-May, Sergey Chuzavkov, a 52-year-old press photographer, saw from his balcony bursts of anti-aircraft defense aimed at Russian machines "like in Star Wars".
Every night, he goes to bed very late, keeping sentry and surfing on Telegram channels, often the first to announce the launch of Russian missiles or drones. He wakes his wife and their 14-year-old daughter Nastia if he deems the risk significant.
On May 16, when hypersonic Kinjal missiles were shot down over Kiev, the explosions seemed so loud and close that Sergiy put his helmet and bulletproof vest on his daughter, who had taken refuge in the hallway.
Nastia ensures not to be intimidated. "The first night was scary but after that I got used to it and felt angry with the Russians rather than scared."
Every morning after the strikes, netizens praise the "gods" of air defense.
The latter have something to brag about, and to thank Western military aid: if during the first months of the invasion, 20% to 30% of Russian missiles were intercepted, this figure exceeded 92% in May, according to estimates by Ukrainian edition of Forbes magazine.
A success largely due to the deliveries of Western systems, including the American Patriots which made it possible to intercept Kinjal, a first since the start of the Russian offensive in February 2022.
If the destruction and the losses were minimal in May in kyiv, this repeated nocturnal stress is not insignificant.
“The more sirens there are, the more calls we receive,” notes doctor Serguiï Karas of the Kiev Emergency Medicine Center, in charge of ambulances.
According to him, the average daily calls jumped to 1,300-1,400 in May against a thousand in previous months.
Young people suffer from panic attacks, anxiety, older people, hypertension and arrhythmia, lists Mr. Karas. "Most often sedatives are enough, but sometimes it's heart attacks or strokes."
With every siren, single mother Olena Mazour and her 5-year-old son Sacha descend into the underground car park of a nearby building, since the day their entire building shook after a series of explosions. Sometimes they go there twice a night.
In the morning, whether they've slept or not, it's work and kindergarten. "We manage because we have to live," says the 42-year-old accountant, wishing the Russians to spend "even just a week of nights like ours".
"It's hardly possible to hate them more than we already hate them," she says.
26/05/2023 20:43:55 - Kiev (Ukraine) (AFP) © 2023 AFP