The first entry in Tymofiy Zozulia’s war diary is dated March 12, days after Russian forces occupied this village east of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. By then, his mother and stepfather were dead, but the 12-year-old had yet to discover the truth.
“For four days my brother Serafim and I are staying with our auntie,” Tymofiy wrote in a blue notebook. “We often went to hide in their neighbor’s cellar. I have lost count of how many times we went to the cellar but that’s OK. My mom and [stepfather] Sirozha have been stuck in Kyiv since last week.”
For Tymofiy, the war began when he returned from school on Feb. 23 and learned he would stay home the next day. His mother, Yuliya Vashchenko, and her partner, Serhiy Yesypenko—nicknamed Sirozha—instructed him to switch off the lights early that evening, he recalled.
In the dark, he wrote in his diary before trying to sleep, but his mind was racing. “I had millions of questions,” he said. “The uncertainty was killing me.”