How an air-raid siren in Ukraine sounds (audio/video)

It's an ear-splitting noise that means missiles are on course to kill you (or maybe not).


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KYIV — It’s difficult to describe the sound of the citywide missile alerts in Kyiv, but I can say that the droning noise ricochets, like a phantom, between my ears even now that I’m home. (And I still have an app on my phone that blares this same echoey, unctuous sound to let me know when Kyiv is on alert while I’m in Seattle — because I’m a masochist, clearly.) After a siren went off when I was in Kyiv a couple weeks ago, I wrote this:

On Sunday, I sheltered in a dim stairwell, listening to the thunder of missiles hitting Kyiv and, later, I visited an apartment complex that had been shattered in the early morning. I sweated in the 86-degree heat under my tactical vest and its heavy armored plates. I debated: Do I wear my heavy ballistic helmet? I have it, so I should, right? If the ceiling falls and I’m not wearing it, I’d feel stupid (if I lived), right? But I should go outside and report, shouldn’t I? I’m a reporter, right?

And why was there a housekeeper coming in and out of the apartment next to mine, gathering cleaning supplies, occasionally amiably chatting with me in Ukrainian — which I don’t speak — while I was trying to get behind two thick walls and away from windows?

My indecision was a product of circumstance: Most people in Kyiv continue to go about their day as the blare of the siren dopplers away, only offering silence for an indeterminate time until an app on our phones gives an all-clear. The warnings are ambiguous because, I’ve been told, Ukraine’s early-warning systems are not sensitive enough to know where Russian missiles may fall.

In any case, here’s the sound that goes off anywhere from one to four or five times a day in Kyiv. My hope is that the friends I’ve made there — and everyone else — will be annoyed, sure, but still take shelter.


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