Where families once lived: War through the eyes of Ukrainians in the wasteland of Kharkiv
Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Russians have been bombing the second largest Ukrainian city, Kharkiv. Apparently, the Russian authorities were counting on the rapid conquest of a city close to the Russian border.
However, Kharkiv residents proved that Kharkiv will never be a Russian city. We will talk about Kharkiv’s resistance from the testimony of Andriy, a member of the Kharkiv Defense Staff and an activist with the group Active Community, who continues to defend the city from Russian aggression.
“They came to our house when no one called them. They are destroying the city we rebuilt, especially after the Revolution of Dignity. The Russians are systematically destroying Kharkiv. They fire mortars and “hailstones” at the city every day, bombing it from planes twice or thrice a day. They turn the city into stones,” said Andriy. “The historical center of Kharkiv no longer exists. For me, as a Kharkiv resident and a person who passed the Revolution of Dignity and joined the development of the city, it hurts to see. The city is being turned into ruins.”
According to Andriy, the mission of the Active Community is to achieve prosperity through the democratic development of Ukrainian communities. He and other group members witnessed the bombing of Kharkiv’s administrative quarter, Freedom Square.
“We sat and drank coffee. The first rocket landed near the building, smashed all the windows. We all took cover. Then everyone went out into the corridor. I followed wearing a bulletproof vest and helmet. He sat down in the corridor. Then an explosion, darkness, too much smoke to breathe. Twenty meters away I saw a sink hole that went down in six floors.”
On March 2, the Russian military shelled a military hospital. That violated international humanitarian law.
“They are not a law-abiding state. They are just terrorists. I do not understand why the international community reacts so calmly, not harshly. We are simply being destroyed,” said Andriy.
In Kharkiv, the invaders bombed not only administrative and military facilities, but also residential neighborhoods. Most of the victims of Russia’s attacks are civilians. According to Andriy, many volunteers died. Many people have already left Kharkiv. The city has few cars and street lighting. But there are still people who continue to defend themselves.
“Kharkiv has always been a center of resistance against Russian aggression. This is a strategic point in eastern Ukraine, so it is very important to keep it under Ukrainian control. The Russians expected it to fall easily. For some reason, they believe that in this way they will take Kharkiv.”
Despite the fact that many Kharkiv residents could not imagine the Russian invasion, most of them had Ukrainian views. Now 95% of Kharkiv residents hate Russia and the Russian president, according to local reports. It is a historic moment, because the next generation will see what Moscow and the “Russian world” have to offer.
Andriy said he will never believe Russia, no matter how democratic it is.
“Russia is the same USSR. An enemy that has not changed. We are guilty of not building the state and not taking a conscious attitude to the election of the President and local authorities in previous years,” said Andriy. “I hope that after this war, citizens will finally understand that they live in the state of Ukraine with its own language, culture, and long history. A state that has always been democratic and radically different from the Russian Federation, the Russian Empire, and the USSR. Call it what you want. We are different, despite the fact that we were once a colony that they used for their own purposes.”
Andriy said that the Kharkiv Defense Headquarters would continue to defend the city, and refuse to hand it over to the Russians.
Sеrgеj Kоzlоv, Vyаchеslav Mаdіyеvskyy, and Ukrаiniаn Emеrgеncy Sеrvicе
Originally published as Війна очима українців. Харків