“He said, ‘Get out now.’ And that’s all the time he had to speak,” Mr. Kalashnik said. “We haven’t heard from him since.”
Just over the few hours out on the road, he said, he was dizzied by the fast-moving military action that seemed to be reshaping his country, minute by minute.
“Just while we drove, so much has changed,” he said.
Along the way, he said, he called his grandmother living near the Russian border to the south of Kharkiv, an eastern Ukrainian city that was partially surrounded Thursday. Russian soldiers had already arrived, he said she had told him, and added, “There is a tank in my garden.”
Ms. Danyliuk, a 65-year-old retiree, and her husband, Bogdan, lived in Shchastya, a town along the line dividing government territory from a separatist enclave in eastern Ukraine, where she was an active volunteer in a theater group for children. She also awoke Thursday to a bombardment.
Understand Russia’s Attack on Ukraine
What is at the root of this invasion? Russia considers Ukraine within its natural sphere of influence, and it has grown unnerved at Ukraine’s closeness with the West and the prospect that the country might join NATO or the European Union. While Ukraine is part of neither, it receives financial and military aid from the United States and Europe.
“We packed in a panic,” she said in a telephone interview from the road. “I was afraid to turn on the light. I decided to take a shower, while I had a chance. We packed documents. But I didn’t bring the family photographs. They were in a big box. There wouldn’t be room for them.”
She said she later regretted that decision. In the end, she took another spare tire.
“I should have left yesterday,” she said. “Today, I abandoned everything and left.”
She was planning to stay with her son in Kyiv, though he lives in a one-room apartment, but she also understood Kyiv was not safe, either. Before they left, she and her husband scattered some feed on the ground for their chickens, and then let the birds out to roam — perhaps, into the street fighting.