Conflicts & War

Father left in dark with no news from son in bombed-out Kharkiv

By Lourdes Velasco

Kharkiv, Ukraine, May 17 (EFE).- Anatoliy pedals his bike down the road that leads to Kharkiv, which is littered with charred tanks, bullets and missiles.

The 62 year old, who only gives Efe his name, is leaving his village of Tsyrkuny for the first time since Russian troops withdrew.

He wants to check on an apartment he owns in Kharkiv, which is located in the most bombed neighborhood of Ukraine’s second-largest city, some 5 kilometers from his home.

Although Ukrainian forces have managed to push back Russian troops from the city, the rumble of artillery echoes a few kilometers away.

On Saturday, his village was shelled again, and he is not optimistic that the Russians have left for good.

Anatoliy tells Efe that the last two months have been a nightmare.

His son is fighting with Ukraine’s army and the last time they spoke was on March 26.

He has received some messages but hasn’t heard from him in several weeks.

Tsyrkuny is just a few kilometers from Kharkiv and sits on the highway that connects the city with Russia.

Anatoliy has a field where he grows vegetables and a warehouse to store food which has served as a refuge since the war broke out on February 24.

During Russia’s relentless battle in Kharkiv, Anatoliy and his fellow residents have lived with no gas, electricity nor internet connection for 10 days.

The older man lives with his wife in the make-shift shelter in a lifestyle that seems centuries old. They cook with firewood and luckily don’t lack food.

Before the war, when they didn’t even know it was coming, they stocked up their pantry, as they do every year, to replace perishables that had been used. Humanitarian aid has also arrived.

Anatoliy doesn’t want to leave the village but if the Russians return he may be forced to flee elsewhere with his wife.

The hardest thing about always being underground is damp, Anatoliy says.

“It affects my throat and lungs, and the cold makes my teeth hurt,” he says.

Anatoliy rides his bicycle towards Kharkiv and leaves the checkpoint behind.

A trail of destruction leads to the Salktiva district, one of the most intensely shelled areas of Kharkiv.

The dormitory town is a mix of single-family homes and high-rise apartment buildings.

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