CHASIV YAR, Ukraine — At 9 months old, baby Alyona has lived through nothing but war.

Such is the threat of constant Russian bombing; she can rarely get out of the cramped, dark basement in the small town of Chasiv Yar, in eastern Ukraine, which she, her parents, and five other adults call home.

As long as they have enough food and water, their lives are on hold, their exhausted minds on constant alert. The street next to hers was recently hit by a bomb, shrapnel ricocheting off her building. Windows are flying all over the city, glass is scattered all over the frozen ground.

Nearby, a burnt-out five-story apartment block is now a brick structure that shows barely any signs of ever being inhabited. Struck by a rocket in July, 48 people, including a child, died, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine said at the time.

“I have to be careful,” Alyona’s father, Artem, 36, told NBC News as his unconscious daughter played with a rattle. “I am responsible for the life of my wife, my son, and now the child is living in the condition that he does not see sunlight and sometimes there are days when he does not go out. Only when I am sure there will be no shelling here.»

Ukrainians attend Sunday prayers in the basement of an apartment in the town of Chasiv Yar on Sunday. A new Russian assault puts the area at further risk.Yasuyoshi Chiba / AFP – Getty Images

Now the long-awaited Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine has begun, and the front line is getting closer and closer.

A huge barrage of missile and drone attacks on towns and cities set off air-raid sirens across the country on Friday, after days of intensified ground attacks along the eastern front lines.

“There is a daily escalation and Russian attacks are activated throughout the region,” Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of Donetsk, said on Friday. As with previous large-scale bombings, power facilities were targeted, causing localized blackouts. For now, for most people, the lights are still on.

But for the thousands of Ukrainians who cannot leave or refuse to leave their homes in the line of fire, there is no end in sight to the nightmare of war.

Chasiv Yar is located in the Donetsk region, which is largely in the hands of Russian forces, just a few miles west of Bakhmut, the war-torn city that has become a symbol of Ukraine’s defiance.

Analysts have warned that Moscow’s forces, seeking a high-profile victory to coincide with the anniversary of the February 24 invasion, may finally be poised to take Bakhmut as Russia seeks to push further west to consolidate its control over Donetsk and neighbors. Lugansk, which together form the Donbas region, known before the war as the home of Ukraine’s industrial heartland.

This is often easier said than done.

Artem and his wife, Oleksandra, 26, traveled some 155 miles west to the city of Dnipro to apply for temporary displaced status. But the small handouts they were given and the difficulty of finding work proved too much. So, despite the dangers, they returned to Chasiv Yar. Like so many, they have older relatives nearby.