Ambassadors from Western countries, along with their diplomatic teams – led by the United States – pulled out of Ukraine weeks ago. But not Cichocki. Some of his team of more than 80 Polish diplomats have moved to the western city of Lviv, where they maintain a working consulate, or back to Warsaw. But many remain by his side in the capital.
Still, during his interview with BuzzFeed News on Thursday, there were signs that Cichocki is concerned about the Russian threat. Outside his office door sat a helmet and bulletproof vest adorned with a red-and-white Polish flag patch. And he wore what he called a “go bag” with “important documents” on his hip. His blood type was 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 pummeled the outskirts of Kyiv. “Let’s open the window so we can listen,” Cichocki said.
He pulled out his phone to check an app that is supposed to notify residents when Russian missiles are incoming.
“I like this app, but it’s always two minutes late, which is a long time when Iskanders come,” he said in reference to Russia’s short-range hypersonic ballistic missiles that have been used against Ukraine.
Cichocki said he had not been asked, let alone ordered, by his bosses in Warsaw to leave Kyiv. “There are things you can’t do from a distance,” he said, adding that he was still engaging “24/7” with members of Ukraine’s government and other Western diplomats.
“Leaving now is something that could decrease [Ukrainians’] spirits, ”he said.