“Russian terrorists did this. … And my father is Russian, from Belgorod!” Galina, a 63-year-old cashier, says as she pulls her belongings from the wreckage of what used to be her apartment. As she gestures at the rubble behind her, she tells us, “They dumped an enormous bomb from a plane over there, at what used to be our flat.” Galina and her husband, Sergey, also 63, have not left the city because they have nowhere to go. “Anyway, [President Vladimir] Putin’s tentacles are reaching everywhere, even to Lviv,” she says, referring to an airstrike on a volunteer base that killed dozens of soldiers several days ago across the country in western Ukraine. “He has to be stopped. He has to be killed ― that is the only way.”
The foundations of half-a-dozen apartments remain, but the front walls have been blown off and most people’s possessions lie on the ground among the smashed stones. It is here that Galina and Sergey rummage through the wreckage trying to salvage what they can. The husks of two cars, now just piles of twisted black metal, lie on the street outside.
Despite the carnage that has been inflicted on the people of Kharkiv, they say that their relatives in Russia refuse to believe that anything untoward has happened to them. The irony, Galina says, is that “Kharkiv is — or at least was ― a pro-Russian city! Everyone here speaks Russian and has family over the border.” But now sympathies for Russia have evaporated, replaced with burning hatred. Perhaps unexpectedly, it is here in the Russian-speaking east that you hear the most passionate denunciations of Putin and the Russian attack on Ukraine. [Continue reading…]