By Maria Traspaderne
Kharkiv/Derhachi, Ukraine, Apr 7 (EFE).- Before the war, Vladislav Malishev ran a technology company in Kharkiv, but when Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine he joined the territorial defense forces.
Upon arrival in Kharkiv, just 50 kilometers from the Russian border, the 43-year-old greets us with a broad smile at a gas station on the city’s outskirts.
“When you’re alive, everything is fine,” Vlad, who has had six brushes with death in 43 days, says.
The first was on a mission with territorial defense forces when a rocket landed next to him.
“We managed to escape,” he adds.
The second happened while driving his electric car. A missile was fired at the vehicle but, because it did not detect any heat, the projectile flew over his windshield.
HOME ON THE FRONT LINE
During his stint with the army, Vlad continued living in Derhachi, a residential town 15 kilometers northwest of Kharkiv.
Derhachi was on the front line and Vlad took Efe to its deserted streets amid intermittent explosions and shots.
The town hall has been reduced to rubble after being bombed three times. The situation is so dire that the army decided to evacuate the town Thursday.
Ludmila, 69, her shoulders sagging, carries a loaf of bread in her hand as she heads to the empty school where she used to work as a janitor, to check on the classrooms.
She has left her six-year-old grandson at home with her father.
“It is very difficult to explain to him what is happening. To calm him down, I tell him that the house was built by my father, that it is made of wood and brick and is impossible to destroy. He is afraid, but I hug him tight and try to reassure him.”
The last two nights were especially hard.
“From nine at night until three in the morning, bombs were falling nonstop,” Ludmila says.
Russian troops have surrounded the northern, northeastern and northwestern flanks of the city, and the Ukrainian government has warned Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, could be the Kremlin’s next target.
Nearby Derhachi, where until a week ago Vlad slept with 15 people who were sheltering in his basement, is also within the area Russia is expected to move into.
Because they could not all fit in the cellar, Vlad and another man slept on the ground floor.
When a shell struck the house at midnight, Vlad suffered a concussion and was hospitalized for a few days.