For weeks, a Russian invasion had been expected by some Ukrainians and merely sequestered in the mind’s recesses by others. But once the sweeping attacks began on Thursday, hitting seemingly every corner of the country, the war became unavoidably tangible for Ukrainians — a hovering cloud of darkness that once seemed unimaginable in the post-Cold War era.
To the booming sounds of missile explosions and air attacks, and hearing early reports of battles that took the lives of civilians as well as soldiers, some put up a defiant face and vowed to fight the intruders however they could. Most also realized, though, that Russia had the advantage of overwhelming might, and that life in Ukraine was very likely at best to be unsettled and even treacherous for some time to come.
In parts of the country, people cleaned out grocery stores. They rushed the A.T.M.s to get their savings while they could. Many thousands, the front end of an expected flood of refugees, waited in impossible lines for bus tickets or sat in their cars in monstrous traffic jams, all seeking to head west, ideally to NATO-protected Poland.
The rest of the population could only wait to see what the Russians, who in the first day seemed to be laying a military noose around the capital of Kyiv, would do next. New York Times photographers and those of other news organizations are spread around Ukraine and have provided visual documentation of a populace coping with the initial stages of a national military invasion, struggling with newfound uncertainty and fear.
Below, the aftermath of a strike on a military airport on Thursday in Chuguyev, near Kharkiv.
Families boarding evacuation trains in Kramatorsk on Thursday evening, bound for Kyiv and Lviv, the largest city in western Ukraine.
The remnants of a munition piercing an apartment near Kharkiv.
Lining up to withdraw cash in Severodonetsk.
Video: Families fleeing Thursday’s attack in Kyiv were stuck in traffic for miles on the capital’s longest avenue, as they tried to escape the advancement of Russian troops.
A fire burning after strikes hit the eastern Ukrainian town of Chuguiv.
Ukrainian military vehicles on the side of the road outside Severodonetsk.
Covering a body after bombings in Chuguiv.
Packing up belongings from an apartment to move farther away from shelling in Kramatorsk.
The crash site of a Ukrainian Armed Forces aircraft that was shot down in the Kyiv region, according to the State Emergency Service.
Praying at St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery on Thursday in Kyiv.
Russian attacks damaged radar arrays and other equipment at a Ukrainian military site outside Mariupol.
Waiting for trains out of the city at the main station in Kramatorsk.
Dusk in Kyiv on Thursday. Russian forces were advancing on the city, a U.S. Defense Department official said.