Ambassadors from Western countries, along with their diplomatic corps – led by the United States – pulled out of Ukraine weeks ago. But not Sichoki. Some of his team of more than 80 Polish diplomats have moved to the western city of Lviv, where he maintains a working consulate, or returned to Warsaw. But many remain by his side in the capital.
Still, in an interview with BuzzFeed News on Thursday, Cichocki showed signs of concern about the Russian threat. Outside his office door sat a helmet and bulletproof vest emblazoned with a red and white Polish flag patch. And he carried what he called a “go bag” with “important documents” on his hip. His blood type is scrawled in permanent marker on his left arm.
“I don’t want to end up in the wrong coffin,” he quipped.
As he spoke, a volley of rockets rang out on the outskirts of Kyiv. “Let’s open the window so we can hear,” Cichocki said.
He pulled out his phone to check an app that was supposed to notify residents when Russian missiles were incoming.
“I like this application, but it’s always two minutes late, which is a long time when the Iskanders arrive,” he said, referring to Russia’s short-range hypersonic ballistic missiles used against Ukraine.
Cichocki said his superiors in Warsaw ordered him to leave Kyiv but did not listen. “There are things you can’t do remotely,” he said, adding that he still engages “24/7” with members of Ukraine’s government and other Western diplomats.
“Leaving now may be less [Ukrainians’] souls,” he said.