Kharkov, History of the Wounded Land

Two perfectly muddy grooves mark the path that the car driven by Stanislav must climb. Stanislav – his nom de guerre – calmly leads a person with whom he has already fought many battles. He realizes that he cannot get out of the canyons, because the whole earth is mined. He wants to drive faster, and he knows that the convoy of small cars he’s driving is now an easy target for Russian troops. “Last week we lost five of our teammates as we entered one of our positions not far from here. The Russians are constantly watching this whole area, we are close to the border and the faster we move the better,” he says as he miraculously keeps his 4×4 inside some cracks. It was a road. We enter what remains of the village of Dementiyivka, located only 5 kilometers from the Russian border. The picture is bleak: destroyed houses, skeletons of what were once pets However, some civilians still live among the ruins. Stanislav orders the disembarkation. Get out of the car and take a safe position against the road bridge. The group of six soldiers traveling with him is advancing to comb the area. Although the area is liberated, the soldiers are careful: everything is mined «Dementiyivka liberated area, but it is better to take precautions. In recent weeks, we have witnessed Small incursions by Russian commandos who have penetrated our territory to sabotage and to bring operational stress between our positions. There is nothing serious to worry about, but it is better not to risk it and to do things right”, he asserts while waiting for the rest of his men to grant e the green light to move to an old outpost located at the top of Dementiyivka. Not long ago, artillery shelling was heard between the two sides. “We’ve had a very active few weeks, and the Russians seem to want to reform our positions to slow our counterattack, but they won’t stop our progress.” After about twenty minutes we got the necessary permission to move. Of course, provided that we are very careful where we go, because the entire town is mined and filled with explosive devices. It is the trap left by the Russians after their withdrawal. Life turned to ashes as we marched in line, with the rhythmic sound of Russian and Ukrainian artillery in the background, exchanging attacks. Suddenly, a chainsaw sound was heard, a sign that there was still a glimmer of life in the battered Dementiyivka. They were Igor and Alisa. They have been together their whole life and now, more than 70 years later, they have had to see how their whole life has been reduced to ashes by the war. “We stayed in Dementiyivka until the last minute. It was hell. Where you see this building was the line between the two sides, and our house was in the middle. We lived hidden in the barn shelter until we moved our soldiers to a safe place in Kharkov. We still don’t know how to live,” they told ABC . They have now returned to what was once their home and only the ruins have been found. All of his possessions are mined. “Live or die? What else does that give us? We are much older now and never thought we would ever encounter such horror. We have lost everything, even the desire to continue living in a situation like that brought upon us by this war. Along the entire Northwest Front of the region Kharkov, the wounds left by the fierce Numantin defense of the Ukrainian forces to prevent this area from being taken by invaders are very visible.The Saltivka neighborhood on the northern edge of Kharkov testifies to this.Very few buildings were not destroyed due to the fighting in this part of the city , which is the first line of defense for Kharkiv. Scorched earth above, one of the mass graves near Izum. Below, the civilian population trying to return home. Right, a building reduced to rubble in Yarkov Alvaro Ybarra Zavala “In one of these buildings we had our stand. All Something was crazy. The shelling and the exchange of bombardments were so violent that we couldn’t go down to the roof. We had pulled down walls to tie some buildings together and thus be able to move around with minimal security,” Alice tells us, the nickname of war for the other defenders of the city. Today, these dilapidated buildings are no longer military outposts and the owners are slowly returning to the neighborhood to discover for themselves if there is still anything left of their homes. “Nothing, nothing left. Curse the Russians. Why all this pain and so much suffering? What do they want to achieve with it? They will pay for what they did ”, confirms Dmitry, looking at the mounds of rubble where his house was before the war. Now the front line, in an area Kharkiv, farther to the east, a few kilometers from the recently liberated city of Kobyanx. Both in the local area and in neighboring villages, such as Kurylivka and Kivsharivka, almost no one remained. The sound of artillery fills the silence now prevailing in these places completely destroyed by war. There are soldiers everywhere and an impromptu humanitarian point sometimes where the few residents still in the area go. The bridge connecting Kobyansk to these towns hardly stands. Alexandra crosses her on her bicycle laden with provisions: “Ukrainian soldiers arrived and liberated us, true, but after That everyone seems to have forgotten about us. Here we do not have any kind of help and we are waiting for the Russians to return and respond to the civilian population. Here one lives in fear.” Violent deaths in the Kharkov region, the scorched-earth policy and the abuses systematically applied by Russian forces against the civilian population are apparent is visible. In the fir forest outside the city of Izum, hundreds of mass graves are still open after they were exhumed. “In it were found more than four hundred civilian corpses with obvious signs of violent death. There were also minors and soldiers. All were killed in cold blood,” says Engel, a Ukrainian medical officer who led us into this forest of terror. “All over the Kharkov region we find hundreds of mass graves, usually with three or four bodies, but not one as big as this one,” he says.

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