It’s Wednesday 23 February. I arrive in Kyiv to cover this phoney war. A war of words. No one believes Vladimir Putin will dare carry out his ludicrous threats of war.

David Parsley

David Parsley, contributing editor (news)

Walking around the city that afternoon, the beauty of it becomes clear. A friendly, stylish European capital. Just 12 hours, later I am woken by an enormous explosion. Putin’s threats are threats no longer.

From the roof of the InterContinental hotel, I am an eyewitness to war in Europe. Is it frightening? In hindsight, sure. In the moment, it is all about adrenaline.

As I walk through Kyiv on the morning after war begins, the stores are open and the dogs of this proud city are being walked by their owners. These people will not be cowed.

As I return to the hotel, I hear gunfire. It is coming from a side street. Russian insurgents have been here for days, even weeks, and now they are being activated. My pace hastens to the relative safety of the InterContinental.

From 7am, the air-raid sirens blare on a regular basis, the hotel basement car park offering refuge. You can hear the bombing, but you cannot feel it yet. That will change.

Life goes on, and the hotel staff continue to plough on, providing the most wonderful service. At dinner, I thought it was time to try a chicken Kyiv, in Kyiv. My silly little tribute to this country.

As a reporter, your priority is to report what you see and hear, not to take sides or air your own opinion. In a war as unjust as this, that rule goes out the window and I immediately realise I am here to do my bit to report the cruelty of all this.

Sleep is hard to grab as my brain is constantly on alert, and I am here to report on this crisis. I have work to do, and the distraction of writing is most welcome. I do eventually nod off on Thursday night, but am woken at 4.21am by more huge explosions. I had got into the habit of looking at my phone to check the time every time I heard a boom.

As I look out, I see a splay of fire in the air. A Russian aircraft – we still don’t know if it was a drone, fighter or troop carrier – has been destroyed and its wreckage is falling towards innocent Ukrainians in the suburbs. I sit in bed with my laptop and write my dispatch for the i newspaper throughout this bombardment, an attack far fiercer than the night before. This time you can feel the missiles hit.

Later that morning, a small group of us reporters prepare our hire cars for the escape from Kyiv. Gaffer tape is used to spell out ‘TV’ and ‘Press’ in our windows. I feel cowardly. I also feel I must get home to my family.

We join the queue out of Kyiv as the bombing continues two miles to our right in the Obolon district of the capital. The earth is regularly shaken below us as Putin hits.

It was the best and worst drive of my life. Twenty-six hours straight behind the wheel as we make our way west, where there is danger, but not as much as in Kyiv.

With the most welcome help of some former UK special forces guys, we make it to the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. As our five-car convoy pulls into the small town hideaway, the locals are concerned, suspicious. The town mayor arrives, and our guys convince her we are not Russian bandits. Life has become so surreal.

It is now Saturday morning, but I have no idea what day it is. After the first decent night’s sleep in days, we get into our cars again. A drive through the picturesque Carpathians awaits. Seven hours later, we are at the Slovakian border. My colleague from The Wall Street Journal has contacts. The US ambassador to Slovakia sends three local special forces men to greet us. We are safe. Many millions more are not.

Long live Ukraine.