The journey to the city, which had taken a breather since May after the ceasefire. The missiles are back, there are those who live in the subway stations: Let’s pretend we’re camping
From our correspondent
Kharkiv – No more silence. The nights in Kharkiv have no other voice than the sirens and the bombs. Often dark, even in the heart of the city. as if life itself stopped after curfew. But if you resist the fear of staying on the balcony for a few minutes, the reward is a starry sky that enchants as soon as your eyes adjust to the darkness.
Here it is, the deceived city.
The ceasefire in May had allowed everyone to hope for less brutal days. The siege seemed over, the Russians had retreated towards their border, 40 kilometers from here. But it was actually a deception. The former capital of one and a half million inhabitants, the second largest city in Ukraine, returned under attack day and night. And the next morning at dawn the missiles hit the center again.
The exhausted, scared people, few cars on the street, 70% of the businesses are stopped, 30% of the houses are destroyed, very few shops, cafes and restaurants are open. Wherever the display windows and windows are hidden by protective panels, it is difficult to find a building that has all the glass intact (if it wasn’t for the missiles cluster bombsswearing witnesses to the first days of war, the bloodiest).
We have nine districts and all of them are bombed. There is no neighbourhood, no place in the city that can be said to be totally safe, he comments the mayor, Ihor Terekhov. It does not say how many crosses his city has (many hundreds), but he says that more than 150 thousand people were left homeless and that in the good days – those at the beginning of May – its citizens had returned with a rate of 2 thousand a day, small businesses had tried to start over, people had gotten out of the subway and stayed at home, thousands of the displaced people who had been living underground for two and a half months had found housing. But now …
The underground people
Even today, after 158 days, between 100 and 150 people live between trains and platforms in Heroes of Labor, the last subway station in the northeast direction, just below the foot of Saltivka, the most bombed district. town. The world above it has buildings black with smoke and empty of people, with no water, no gas, no electricity. The few remaining inhabitants are like ghosts: we live in a place that no longer exists, in unrecognizable houses, every explosion a new wound. The world below has children playing happy at the foot of a bunk bed, between the ticket office counters and advertising signs; it has ladies heating water to shower, cats dozing, people reading lying on piles of blankets, and others praying to heaven to save Ukraine because, Lord, we deserve salvation.
Let’s pretend we’re camping
Maria, 70, says she arrived aboard a tank on February 27. Zinaida, 71, has also been living down there since February 27 with her daughter Zhenia, 50. Our building is unusable. We have nothing left. Where are we going?. Being close to home gives the illusion of being able to return soon. If you ask her how she spends her days, Zhenia answers to herself to the others gathered around: We cheat life by doing the things we always do: waking up at the usual time, personal hygiene, let’s go outside to air the blankets, we even made the fold … We pretend to be camping. But nobody wants to stay here in the winter.
You also get used to conditions that may once have seemed impossible. Valery Bukto, for example. He is 68 years old and head of neurosurgery at Byhospitalet for Ambulance and Emergency Services. He has been home three or four times since the war, just to see if he was still standing. I’m sleeping here in the hospital, he says, because you need me, there isn’t a day when civilians don’t arrive with shrapnel injuries. Doctor Bukto is moved as he talks about complicated operations, about lives saved, about his own fantastic team of the operating room and her three children whom she has not seen for a while.
Guardian of Nothing
In Kharkiv, tens of thousands of fathers who have not seen their children for months have been sent to safety away from the bombs. Andrij Semeniuk, 54, one of them. Her boyfriend went to Israel and he continued to work for security in Barabashovo, one of the biggest markets in Europe, which a missile attack half-destroyed on March 17. It is not clear what he will see now, if not a huge pile of iron deformed by the fire. But for Andrij, it trashes a lot of his life, and it doesn’t matter, I come here and walk around as if everyone was still there. As if there were still people shouting, the shops opening, the goods in front of the doors, the packages to be loaded and unloaded… As if it were still February 23rd.
30 July 2022 (change 30 July 2022 | 21:45)
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