ORIKHIV | The sound of shelling rumbles in several directions and black smoke rises from the horizon, but Janna Protsenko continues to pedal on her bicycle, to join those who have not been able to flee the fighting between Ukrainian and Russian armies.
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A social worker, Janna has decided to continue what she does despite the battles that are approaching, eager to help her fellow citizens among the most fragile, whom she will see at home.
“How could I leave them?”, justifies this 56-year-old woman, standing near a hospital hit by a shell last week.
“We’re working, we don’t have time to hide,” she says, as workers try to fix the blown windows and the gaping hole visible in the brick facade.
Janna works in the town of Orikhiv in southeastern Ukraine, still in the hands of Kyiv forces but dangerously close to the front line.
At least three people have been killed there in strikes over the past ten days, authorities said. The fights in this region are above all duels of artillery, missiles or other projectiles fired from miles away and killing indiscriminately.
Homes devastated by the shells thus stand next to other intact buildings, in a city surrounded by fields, where a fire started by an explosion has been burning for days. The fire affected several long brick buildings containing tons of recently harvested sunflower seeds.
“I will not survive”
With black smoke from the fire above her, Janna Protsenko continues to pedal to a small house, in front of which grows a row of tulips.
The owner of the premises, Nina Provontsova, 65, moves slowly with her two wooden crutches to slump on a bench just outside.
“I will not survive without help. I need help every day,” she explains, listing a list of medical problems in her legs and elsewhere.
“Sometimes I call her when I need something, to wash my legs. I can’t do it alone. I can’t bend down,” continues Nina.
Janna writes down a list of products that Nina Provontsova dictates to her for purchase, and she will also go to collect her retirement pension.
Although this woman has two daughters, they are in Kyiv struggling to find work and care for themselves as the war has disrupted all aspects of daily life.
War, moreover, is never far away, and gives the impression of getting closer and closer.
The house opposite, barely fifteen meters away, was hit by a strike and seems abandoned.
“It’s one shell after another. When he hit the neighbors, I almost fell out of bed because of the impact,” says Nina Provontsova.
If she is evacuated, which she may be forced to do, she will have to leave behind all the special equipment that helps her move around her bathroom and bed.
“I don’t want to go anywhere,” she says.
Janna Protsenko, after listening with crossed hands, adds: “You were asking why I’m not leaving? That’s why”.