Monday, March 20, 2023

Russians gone, difficulties continue in Ukrainian city

KALYNIVSKE, Ukraine ( Associated Press) — As night falls in Tatiana Trofimenko’s village in southern Ukraine, she pours sunflower oil given to her by aid workers into a jar and puts a lid on with a wick. A makeshift lantern is lit with a matchstick.

“It’s our electricity,” says 68-year-old Trofimenko.

It has been 11 weeks since the Ukrainian army seized their town of Kalinivske from the Russian occupiers in Kherson province. But the liberation has not eased the hardships for residents, those who have returned home and those who have never left. In the bitter winter, there is neither running water nor electricity in this remote area not far from the front. The noise of war never goes away.

Russian forces retreated to the western side of the Dnieper River which split the province, but still controlled the eastern bank. The near-constant barrage of shells that continues to rumble kilometers away and the threat of abandoned mines scare many Ukrainians away, turning normality into an elusive dream and clouding a strategic military victory.

Nevertheless, residents are slowly returning to Kalinivske and prefer to live without basic supplies, rely on humanitarian aid and under constant threat of shelling rather than continue as displaced persons in another part of the country. They say the stay is an act of defiance in the face of continuous Russian attacks that seek to make the area uninhabitable.

“This area has been liberated. I’m sorry,” Trofimenko said. “Earlier there were no people on the streets. They were empty. Some were evacuated, some were hiding in their homes.”

“Now, when you go out on the street, you see happy people walking around,” he said.

The Associated Press followed a UN humanitarian caravan through the town on Saturday as blankets, sunlamps, fuel cans, bedding and warm clothing were brought to a local distribution center warehouse.

In the first days of the war, the Russian army occupied Kherson province. Most of Kalinivske’s approximately 1,000 residents remained in their homes during the occupation. Most did not have the health or strength to leave, others did not have the means to escape.

Gennadiy Shaposhnikov is lying on a sofa in a dark room, plates are placed next to him.

The 83-year-old man’s cancer has advanced so much that it is difficult for him to speak due to the pain. When a mortar destroyed the rear of his house, neighbors made repairs with coal tar to protect it. They still come by every day to make sure she is fed and taken care of.

“Come back soon,” is all he can say.

Oleksandra Hirhorna, 75, moved in with a neighbor when missiles destroyed her small home near the city center. His frail figure steps on shell casings and shrapnel that litter his front lawn. He carries up a stack of bricks, all that’s left of the stairs, to the front door.

The woman pushed her bicycle to the distribution center and left with a bag full of canned food, her main source of livelihood these days.

But the main problem is the lack of electricity, Hariorna explained. “We use homemade lanterns with oil and we survived that way.”

The main road leading to their house is littered with remnants of the war, like a ghostly museum that once was and everyone hopes never to return. Destroyed Russian tanks rusted in the fields. Cylinders of anti-tank missiles gleam among the grass. Cluster bomb ammunition can sometimes be seen popping out of the ground.

Red signs with skulls warn pedestrians not to get too close.

In their hasty retreat, the Russians left behind empty ammunition boxes, trenches, and canvas-covered tents. Plus a jacket, and for a few kilometers you can see men’s underwear hanging from bare branches. And as the Russians continue to launch offensives in Kherson to recapture lost ground, fearful residents sometimes find it hard to make up their mind that the occupying forces are really gone.

“I’m very scared,” Trofimenko said. “Sometimes I even shout. I’m very, very scared. And I am afraid that shells will fall on us again and that (battle) will start again. It’s the most terrible thing.”

Difficulties in the town extend from the provincial capital of the same name to a constellation of towns scattered among the farmland, all the way to Kherson. Ukrainian troops captured the area west of the Dnieper River in November, followed by the withdrawal of Russian forces, described as one of the biggest Ukrainian victories in the 11-month war.

The UN has doubled its aid with cash aid for 133,000 people and food for 150,000 people. Many people in Kalynivske said that food aid was the only reason they had something to eat.

“One of the biggest challenges is that the people who are there are the most vulnerable. They are mainly the elderly, many of whom have some kind of disability, people who cannot leave the area and need help from aid organizations and local authorities. who work non-stop,” said Saviano Abreu, spokesman for the UN Coordination Office. human affairs.

Attacks are frequent.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry reports almost daily incidents of rocket, artillery and mortar fire against the city of Kherson and towns in the region. Most of the front comes close to the banks, but those away from it do not feel any safer. A missile was fired on Friday in the town of Kochubievka, north of Kalyanivske, killing one person.

“Kherson managed to resume most essential services, but the problem is that the hostilities are making it a challenge to ensure they can be maintained,” Abreu said. “It has been getting worse and worse since December. The number of attacks and hostilities is only increasing”.

Without electricity, there is no way to pump drinking water into pipes. Many people line up to collect water from wells, but residents complain that too much water is needed for daily needs.

Many people look for firewood near the city to keep warm. It is also not without its dangers.

“Before, we could easily get wood from the forest, but now there are mines everywhere,” said 47-year-old Oleksandr Zehin.

Everyone in Kalynivske knows the story of Nina Zvarech. The woman had gone to the forest for firewood and died as soon as she stepped on the mine.

His body was there for a month, as his family was too afraid to go looking for him.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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