Nicholas Sires lives in Dnipro, Ukraine. Originally from New Orleans, he bought an apartment in Dnipro four months ago where he lives with his Ukrainian fiancée because he found the people nice and the neighborhood peaceful. Then, in the middle of the night of March 3, he woke up to learn that the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant was under attack.
“Russian troops, apparently, just started shelling and bombing a nuclear power plant. They're shooting at it, there's a video," he said. "We thought the nuclear plant might blow up that night."
Sires spoke to Nancy Rommelmann of Reason over the phone while on location in Warsaw, Poland on March 5. At the time of publication, she travels by train from Lemberg to Przemysl. Sires spoke of being in Ukraine at the start of the war and what it was like to wonder if a nuclear power station might melt down less than an hour away.
The following is a transcription of his lyrics, edited for length, clarity and style.
"We wake up and see people saying, 'Hey, they're attacking nuclear power plants.' It's on the news at 2, 3 a.m. It's only 80 kilometers away, time to finish packing We stayed because we're under curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. You can't go out on the street I mean they might consider you a saboteur or something and shoot you We didn't get a chance to leave so we had to sit down and see this that was happening.
"At this point we don't know if a bomb will fly in that direction. And it's becoming normal. I'm starting to see Ukrainians getting used to eight years of war and pretending nothing has happened. Anti-aircraft sirens all day, phone alerts. 'Hey alarm, take cover!' And it's like, is it real this time? I mean it's a nightmare. My fiancée is in another room trying to relax. Her mother [and daughter] live three miles away. Your mother doesn't doesn't want to go there. It's his house... "Ukraine is my homeland. Why should I leave?" I mean, until they drop bombs on her neighborhood... maybe she'll change her mind when it's too late. That's how I see things. I keep saying to my wife, 'Hey, you gotta talk to your mom and say, 'Do you want us all to die? Because you want to stay here?' No one wants to leave mom behind. I understand that. I couldn't leave my mom, but it gets to the point where you want to gag her and throw her in a car and say, "Come on, let's go." The longer we wait, the more problems there are.
"There was an eight-year war, but [for many Ukrainians] it's almost like someone in Montana is saying, 'I don't see a problem on the Mexican border,' because they're not not near her. There may be a problem in the Donbass region, but if you are not there, you will not hear the shelling. You do not know that something is happening because you do not you don't see it, so it's easy to detach from it. And I think a lot of Ukrainians living away from the conflict can easily forget that because it doesn't affect them directly, there's this mentality here that everything will be fine.