Stephen Fry found himself scrambling for cover in a Kyiv air raid shelter during a Russian attack this week while visiting the Ukrainian capital for a conference on mental health.
The actor and comedian, 66, recounted how he was jolted awake at 4.45am on Wednesday morning by hotel staff urging him to get to the basement shelter amid air raid alerts.
He was quickly ushered into the shelter alongside other guests, whom Fry said were remarkably relaxed despite the imminent danger.
‘People were laughing and chattering quite happily,’ Fry mused.
‘No sign of drones or incoming missiles, as far as I can tell,’ he said, adding that the shelter was well equipped with coffee machines and sofas – a sign of how the threat of missile strikes has become part of everyday life in Ukraine.
After an hour in the shelter, Fry said a new announcement startled everyone.
‘Your attention, please! There are explosions in the city. Stay in the shelter,’ the announcement said, prompting some hotel guests who had dared to go back to their rooms just minutes earlier to ‘sheepishly return’ below ground.
‘I didn’t have the foresight to bring a laptop,’ Fry admitted, ‘but the more seasoned citizens knew better.’
Actor Stephen Fry speaks to media during a press conference at the Third Summit of First Ladies and Gentlemen in Kyiv, Ukraine, on 6 September 2023
The actor and comedian, 66, recounted how he was jolted awake at 4.45am on Wednesday morning by hotel staff urging him to get to the basement shelter amid air raid alerts
He was quickly ushered into the shelter alongside other hotel patrons, whom Fry reported were remarkably relaxed despite the imminent danger
Fry is seen on stage with a young speaker at the conference this week
Fry shared photos on his social media accounts showing how his hotel room came equipped with a gas mask
Fortunately, authorities eventually gave the all-clear, and life in Kyiv resumed its course. Fry documented the moment with a photo of a café, breathing a sigh of relief.
Before the incident, Fry had been in Kyiv to co-host a conference initiated by Olena Zelenska, the first lady of Ukraine.
The event aimed to address mental health issues amid the war – a cause close to Fry’s heart, as he is the president of the mental health charity Mind.
He described the conference as a ‘real bringing together of neurologists, social scientists, psychology, and those working in mental health trauma’.
Earlier in the week, Fry even witnessed a very courageous surgical operation on a wounded Ukrainian soldier, where doctors courageously ignored an air raid warning to save a life.
He praised the ‘extraordinary humour’ and ‘profound unshakeable determination’ of the Ukrainian people in the face of adversity.
While Fry stood on stage in Kyiv, Russian artillery was targeting a packed market in the Ukrainian city of Kostiantynivka, killing at least 17 people and wounding dozens, according to Ukrainian officials.
Cars caught fire in a scene of devastation as the market burns following Russian shelling
The attack, which targeted the Mercury shopping centre in the town in Donetsk, whipped up an inferno that tore through market stalls and destroyed several cars.
Shocking footage of the incident shared by locals on Telegram showed terrified residents sprinting from the scene as orange flames raged in the background, trailing thick black smoke.
Internal Minister Ihor Klymenko said emergency service workers extinguished the fire, but not before it damaged more than 30 stalls.
Twenty shops, power lines, an administrative building and the floor of an apartment building were damaged, according to the prosecutor general’s office, as rescue workers continued to pick through the rubble in a search for more survivors.
In a short statement, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said: ‘At this moment, the artillery of Russian terrorists has killed 16 people in the city of Kostyantynivka, Donetsk region. A regular market. Shops. A pharmacy. People who did nothing wrong. Many wounded.
‘This Russian evil must be defeated as soon as possible.’
The death toll later increased to 17 killed with 32 injured.
Konstianynivka is six miles from the city of Bakhmut, which has long been the epicentre of some of the war’s bloodiest and hardest fought battles.