Conflicts & War

Kharkiv, once Ukraine’s capital of culture reduced to rubble

By Luis Lidón

Kharkiv, Ukraine, Jul 7 (EFE).- Larisa is cleaning the aftermath of an explosion in the tiny cobbler’s workshop she has been working at for more than a decade in Ukraine’s second largest city of Kharkiv.

With visible scars on her face from the recent attack, she picks up broken glass, debris and dust from the ground murmuring, “when will this all end?”

It is the third time the workshop has suffered an attack.

“We try to save what we can,” Larisa tells Efe.

The explosion shattered part of the external structure of the vocational training center where the workshop is located. The shock wave destroyed doors and windows and there is a huge crater at the entrance of the building.

Fortunately, no one was injured in the attack that took place in the early hours of the morning.

“Russia said the war was to save the Russian minority and they have destroyed the two largest Russian-speaking cities in Ukraine: Mariupol and Kharkiv,” says Zhenya, a colleague of Larisa’s who also works at the Storm brand cobbler’s workshop.

Zhenya and Larisa, like the vast majority of Kharkiv’s population, are Russian speaking.

Employees at Storm shoes have already sacrificed three months of salaries since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in late February but despite the war, there is still high demand for their shoes, Larisa says.

“I’m from Kharkiv, why would I leave?” she says when asked why she doesn’t flee the city which has been under Russian attack for months.

Before the war, Kharkiv — just 30 kilometers from the Russian border — was a major industrial center and Ukraine’s largest producer of footwear. Today, the city is almost deserted and its economy largely wiped out.

The city is also famous in Ukraine for its poetry, art, trade and scientific discoveries.

On Wednesday, a missile struck the Hryhoriy Skovoroda Pedagogical University in Kharkiv, killing one.

Among those who have come to salvage what is left of the university is Volodymir.

The 54-year-old is trying to recover graduation papers of former students. He has also managed to rescue some paintings by famous Ukrainian artists.

“The Russians try to destroy everything to demoralize us, but we are stronger than bombs,” Volodymir says.

Experts say it could take years, or decades, to rebuild the metropolis. Nearly 3,000 of the city’s 8,000 civilian buildings have been damaged or destroyed, according to official figures.

Meanwhile, municipal workers and volunteers are trying to make the city habitable for those who have remained. Two-thirds of the population has fled the city since the war. EFE


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