By Luis Ángel Reglero
Ruska Lozova, Ukraine, June 2 (EFE).- Eighty year-old Efarova Malyna Semenivta lives in a house that has been loaned to her after hers was wrecked during fighting in the village of Ruska Lozova, north of Kharkiv.
People living on the outskirts of Kharkiv, the vast majority older people, live a lonely life in desolate villages that have been severely damaged since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February.
“We don’t want to be part of Russia,” Semenivta tells a group of journalists who are on a tour led by the Ukrainian military to show the hauntingly empty villages near the Russian border, from where most residents have been evacuated.
THREE MONTHS OF SOLITUDE
In Ruska Lozova, empty roads are littered with shells, the gates of houses that have seemingly been abandoned in a rush swing from side to side and dogs meander the streets aimlessly after being left homeless.
Semenivta was one of the few neighbors who preferred to stay. She has throat problems, her voice is hoarse, she says eating hurts, and she coughs regularly.
“Why am I going to leave, I’m older, I’m sick, I couldn’t be inside a shelter, I already have problems being outside,” she laments.
Her husband died nine years ago and she has moved into the house of some relatives because it is “impossible” to live in hers after it was bombed.
The Kharkiv region, home to Ukraine’s second-largest city, has been hammered by the war and has witnessed heavy fighting.
Although Ukrainian forces have liberated villages that had been occupied by the Russians, the fighting thunders on near the border with Russia.
The locals that withstood the invasion tell of how Russian forces ransacked homes.
Semenivta was told to hide when locals alerted her to the arrival of invading troops.
“There were many explosions, my God, if you knew how many, I’ve never seen anything like that in my life,” she exclaims.
Semenivta recalls how the Russians went from house to house, perhaps looking for people in hiding, she says.
“In groups of nine, with automatic weapons, and bulletproof vests, it seemed that they were going to a parade,” she says ironically.
Now the older woman lives without electricity, collects water from a small dam next to the village, and gets by with the food that she receives from time to time from volunteers who come from the city.
She only has provisions for a couple of days and when someone gives her some cookies she smiles gratefully: “Today I have some sweets, may God give you health.”
BOMBS, A PART OF DAILY LIFE
Oleksiy barely flinches at the sound of shell fire as he trundles down an empty road.