The man on a bicycle rides down the middle of the avenue and stops in front of the bombed-out building of the Kharkiv regional administration. Mikhail Pelhe takes off the yellow glasses that cover his face and introduces himself as the administrator of a cycling organization. “I have a huge pain in my heart when I cross the city center”, he describes, unfazed, as missile detonations echo across the windswept plaza.
His family has remained here, 40 kilometers from the Russian border, despite the incessant bombardments since February 24 and the start of the invasion launched by Vladimir Putin. “Before the war, we had thought of leaving, but not anymore, he says. People are united. I am so proud to be Ukrainian…” In a tone of confidence, he points to the blue and yellow flag of his country, folded in a bag hanging from his handlebars, explaining that it protects him like a talisman. The cyclist says he survived a bombardment as he left a supermarket. “I am no longer afraid of the Russians, I am no longer afraid of anything”, he breathes almost sadly.
Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, with more than 1.5 million inhabitants before the war, is disfigured, the center almost empty. A few checkpoints made up of metal crosses and concrete blocks block the avenues. Architecturally elegant buildings have been gutted by missile fire. According to the count of the city council, more than 1,410 buildings, 69 schools, 15 hospitals and 53 kindergartens were destroyed by strikes.
“I don’t want the Russian world”
Sacha shows the scars of the bombing that hit his neighborhood, Slobidsky, on Sunday April 3. According to local authorities, seven people were killed and 34 injured, including three children in serious condition. “There was a guy there in a car, I tried to save him but he had been hit in the artery, I think he died », lets go of the man, pointing to black footprints on the ground. On the facades of the buildings, along the street, windows are broken. On the ground, in several places, impacts have dug the bitumen.
“In forty days, this is the first time they have touched the neighborhood, assures the guy in down jacket and black cap. The The last few days have been rather calm, although sometimes we receive Russian gifts. » Like a large part of the population, several members of Sacha’s family took refuge in the west of the country, less affected by the bombardments and still spared from the fighting.
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In Kharkiv, disfigured, life underground
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