Blocks of flats covered with wooden panels. This is what the Saltivka neighborhood looks like today, only about twenty kilometers from the Russian border. It is the entry point to the city of Kharkiv.
Before the war, about 40,000 people lived here. Today, there are no more than two or three thousand.
Olga and her sister have lived in Saltivka all their lives, before their building was bombed last year. Now they live in another part of Kharkov, but they often come to visit their relatives. Not without regret. Olga has lost her husband, murdered with a friend while they were going to get gasoline.
“Here we lived well before. Honestly, I can’t watch this without crying. I have no words. They have destroyed everything. They have left us without our loved ones, without parents, without husbands, without children. Without our life before. Without work. .. with nothing at all”, laments Olga Zhukovska, a resident of Saltivka.
They lived in various cities before settling in Kharkiv. Olga and her sister intend to return to Saltivka as soon as possible. Today they visit her grandfather, who has not moved.
“Sorry, it’s a mess… Go ahead,” says Olga.
“If you go into the room, you’ll see the mold. Because when the side of the building was hit, the pipes in the basement burst. Come and see. It’s all rotten. The wallpaper has come off,” he explains.
Grandpa is not at home. Olga introduces us to her neighbors.
“We have no electricity, we are flooded, there is no electricity!” says Svetlana, a resident of Saltivka.
“Look how we live, with cracks, mold, we live like homeless people!” he adds.
Svetlana returned from Poland with her mother to check the condition of her apartment. They don’t plan to stay.
“We are leaving. Life is unbearable here. And there will still be fighting. We will go to a village, somewhere,” says Klavdia Vasiliivna, a resident of Saltivka.
Reconstruction is underway, but the task is enormous and the future uncertain. Everyday life is a challenge for those who stayed.
We visited a school converted into a humanitarian center.
“Shops are closed all over this area. For those who have returned, it’s too far to walk to another town to buy things in a shop. That’s why we help them here,” explains Olga Anatoliivna, manager of the Saltivka humanitarian aid hub.
Women who worked in the school canteen before the war now prepare hot meals for hundreds of people every day.
“We left for about six months, and we came back… we lived at home. When we were away, I understood that I had to come back, to do what was necessary, to lighten the load of people here. That’s why we came back, we worked and we helped people. What we want is peace. Nothing more. We want everyone to stay alive and be able to live as we lived before. That’s all we want,” says Veronika Semenivna, a volunteer at the Saltivka humanitarian center.
Both the volunteers and their beneficiaries assure this: they will continue in Saltivka, “until victory.”
“My son is at the front and I am a teacher. I teach online. And I will stay here, next to Kharkiv and my Ukraine,” says Zoya, a resident of Saltivka.
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