Kharkiv: a private chronicle of battle

February 23

An abnormal day in Kharkiv. Wednesday. It’s nonetheless winter, however spring is already within the air. I take my son to highschool, do some work within the morning, take into consideration my deadline — I would like to complete my youngsters’s fairy story by the top of the month. The solar is shining brightly, so I placed on a light-weight coat and sun shades and head out to fulfill a buddy I haven’t seen in months.

We meet in a café downtown. My buddy tells me that she has simply purchased an residence. I’m shocked, as a result of the scenario right here appears unsure. I wish to say this, however I chew my tongue.

I take my son to capoeira coaching, and slip away to purchase a leather-based biker jacket — I’ve so many attire, the jacket will give them a extra modern look. I’ve three new books popping out, two youngsters’s tales and a younger grownup novel in regards to the battle in Donbas, so I would like lots of stunning attire for displays. I assist my son together with his homework. As soon as he has fallen asleep, I pour a glass of white wine. Anxiousness. I’m going to mattress after midnight.

February 24 — day one

Explosions throw me off the bed. I pull again the curtain — it’s nonetheless darkish exterior, automobile alarms are screaming. I have a look at my smartphone: 5am. Somebody runs exterior, attempting to determine what’s going on. The explosions proceed. The home windows are shaking, the glass is ringing. The home appears to be pulsating. My husband Ihor is already getting dressed. “What it’s?” — I ask, though I do know the reply. “That is it. It’s began,” he replies, pulling on his denims.

“It” is the Russian invasion, the factor that has been talked about a lot previously few months, however which, stubbornly, no person believed would occur. It was so laborious to think about that individuals began utilizing it as a meme to get out of issues they didn’t wish to do: “Let’s do it after the invasion.”

The explosions proceed. “Pack your stuff, it’s a must to depart,” says my husband. I attempt to protest, suggesting I wait till the night, however finally quit, pack two small backpacks and put the cat right into a service. I wake my son. He’s confused about why he doesn’t must go to highschool, then hears the explosions and begins crying.

A Ukrainian woman fleeing Kharkiv shelters her cat
A Ukrainian lady fleeing Kharkiv shelters her cat whereas ready to cross the border into Poland on March 8 © AP

We go to my husband’s buddy’s place, to choose up his cat. He meets us already wearing camouflage with a big backpack. He’s a paramedic and intends to go to a army unit right away. We barely stuff our backpacks into one other buddy’s automobile — he’s taking his spouse and small youngster out of town. I say goodbye to my husband, who’s staying on to defend Kharkiv. On the roads, there are miles of horrible site visitors jams, and the radio carries information of missile strikes throughout Ukraine.

See also  'Stuck in this Nazi building': Bickering German coalition blocks finance ministry move

Lastly, after an hour and a half, we attain the ring highway — and see a convoy of army automobiles, tanks and infantry transferring across the village of Lyptsy in the direction of Kharkiv. The automobiles are marked with a white letter “Z”. These are the automobiles of the Russian occupants. To us, the letter means “zombies”.

We arrive in Poltava. My husband’s buddy, alongside together with his spouse and his youngster, carries on into the unknown — there isn’t any one they will go to. I spend the remainder of the day scrolling by the information on the Telegram messaging app.

February 25 — day two

I can’t sleep, can’t eat. We’re shut sufficient to Kharkiv to listen to the earth shake because the Russians shell town. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Despair. Acceptance. I’ve gone by all of the levels of consciousness of the battle. I shudder on the loud sounds, and don’t let go of my cellphone. My husband writes that he has already joined the territorial defence — a battalion shaped by former IT specialists, designers, academics and different common residents to guard town. There are such a lot of candidates that solely these with fight expertise are accepted.

Buildings in Kharkiv damaged by Russian shelling,
Buildings in Kharkiv broken by Russian shelling, March 8 © AFP/Getty

My house in Kharkiv is in an space known as Saltivka, half-hour from the border with Russia. And it’s this space that has been beneath relentless shelling for the reason that first day of the battle, though there are not any army services right here, solely residential high-rises. They shell this space utilizing “Grads”, “Hurricanes”, “Tornadoes” and God is aware of what else. Later comes the worst — air raids.

“I’ve by no means seen air raids reside, solely within the films,” my buddy Alyona writes to me. “However after I heard that sound, I instantly realised — that is it. It is rather tough to explain these emotions — horror, panic, worry? It feels as if consciousness has separated from the physique, all feelings have disappeared, and solely the full feeling of all-consuming horror stays.”

See also  Sterling falls to 37-year low after UK ‘gamble’ on enormous tax cuts

It’s a sleepless night time once more for me, with my cellphone in my arms. And ideas — if solely we might maintain Kharkiv and Kyiv.

February 26 — day three

Kharkiv and, notably, Saltivka are beneath shelling continuously. My nine-year-old son’s classmates sit in bomb shelters and basements as a substitute of sitting at desks. Kindergartens, faculties and homes have been destroyed.

“It’s a terrorist tactic to take civilians hostage to power a army give up,” says my colleague Marina, a journalist. In 2014, town miraculously escaped the destiny of Donetsk and Luhansk, which grew to become the capitals of so-called folks’s republics. “Putin hates our metropolis as a result of Kharkiv didn’t change into the capital of collaborationist Ukraine; as a result of, though it’s Russian-speaking, it didn’t greet the occupants with flowers.”

soldier fixing a flag
Exterior native authorities headquarters in Kharkiv © Photograph Press Service/Avalon

The most important mistake of the Russians was to contemplate the Ukrainian mentality just like their very own, and our peoples fraternal. Now the distinction in world view is clear.

Day six

I’ve misplaced monitor of the date, the day of the week. At 8am, the Russians attacked Kharkiv’s central Freedom Sq., firing a rocket on the constructing the place the Regional Defence Headquarters is situated. The shelling continues. Individuals who had gone out to purchase water and meals are killed. I see an image of a girl mendacity close to a retailer, her legs torn off. A couple of days in the past, such pictures couldn’t have been imagined in European Ukraine. We’d like Nato’s help to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. In any other case, the Russians will proceed to kill us.

I examine my Fb. A whole bunch of standing updates from my associates, all in regards to the battle. “The bombing doesn’t cease,” writes Olena. “We’re hiding within the basement of our faculty. One thing large is falling very shut by. In the event that they destroy the substation and the lights exit, we gained’t have the ability to keep right here any extra. Very scared. Very.”

People queue for dairy products
Folks queue for dairy merchandise in Lubny, north-west of Poltava, on March 8 © Ukrinform/dpa

My mom and I make our method to our hometown, near Kharkiv. The place is in a state of panic. There is no such thing as a bread or different staple merchandise, however crowds of individuals and automobiles. Greater than 100 folks wish to withdraw money from the one ATM. The cash runs out rapidly. Queues, queues, queues. I handle to purchase 5kg of cat meals — it is a appreciable happiness. In the meantime, my husband writes that his fight boots have torn, and I’m beginning to do what I’ve been doing since 2014 to quell the paralysing worry that Russia will come to my land, my house and take all the things away. I’m turning into somewhat volunteer once more.

See also  ECB to agency up plans to chase away bond market stress

Day seven

I attempt to write between looking for fight boots, drugs, and energy retailers. I do know I would like to inform the world what is going on right here. “Write to us about tradition in Kharkiv,” a Polish journalist suggests. “We don’t have tradition proper now,” I reply. “We solely have a steady round the clock hell.”

In all the things I write, I emphasise that the Russians will not be our brothers. The one flowers that can greet them in Ukraine are funeral wreaths.

Kharkiv, a metropolis that had sturdy household and financial ties with Russia earlier than the battle, has already handed some extent of no return. It appears to me that the Russians themselves will not be but conscious of the ability of hatred they’ve aroused. Our youngsters already despise them — and it was not us who taught them this sense, however the occupiers themselves.

Within the night I hear {that a} missile has hit a territorial defence HQ. My husband doesn’t reply to my messages. My arms shake. I can’t assist however cry. It’s solely hours later that I obtain a message from him: “OK”. For the primary time for the reason that outbreak of the battle, I sleep for six complete hours.

Day 13

Immediately I caught myself considering: all the things that was earlier than the battle is as if from a previous life. Immediately I learn in our constructing chat that the doorway subsequent to mine was hit.

I solely remorse not taking two issues from our residence — a Ukrainian flag and my embroidered shirts. However I’ll undoubtedly come again for them.

Yuliya Iliukha is a author from Kharkiv

Voices of Ukraine

Learn extra private accounts of the battle in Ukraine:

Author Oleksandr Mykhed on the language of battle

Kyiv diary from journalist Kristina Berdynskykh, who asks: ‘Was I proper to not depart?’

Novelist Haska Shyyan on telling her daughter in regards to the battle

An interview with film-maker Sergei Loznitsa: ‘Lies convey us to the disaster we face’

Leave a Reply