Daily life in Ukraine is trying to go on, despite the conflict. Everyone is trying to live normally, like the farmer in the Kherson region plowing his field to the sound of shelling, or the children playing on swings as the sirens sound in Zaporizhia.
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There is also “Mamie Valia”, who sells her cream and cheese on the Odessa market, who sends a message to the Russian soldiers: “We stand up, we’re not afraid of you!” She thinks of her two sons who are doing their military service in the Ukrainian army.
Because the fighting has been raging in recent days: the lightning counter-offensive by Ukrainian forces in the Kharkiv region has made it possible to retake nearly 3,000 square kilometers of territory occupied by the Russian army. The Ukrainian flag is flying again in strategic cities like Kupyansk. The counter-offensive is also continuing in the south of the country, in the Kherson region.
“Glory to Ukraine, glory to the heroes!”, these messages are broadcast on the radio while the shelling is only a few kilometers from the village of Vysokopillia, which is five kilometers from the front line. The impacts are very close, and yet on a deserted country road, an old lady is rolling on her bicycle. She explains that she used to live near Vysokopillia, and that she left because of the war. Even if the danger remains present, she has decided to ignore the deaf noise of the explosions because she wants to see her house again. “I was told she escaped the worst, some shrapnel damageshe explains. So I took some sand to go fix it up a bit!”
She says she is not afraid, when she is alone on this road, with her little bike: “I haven’t been there yet, they say there is a lot of destructionshe says. I was scared before going there, it was terrible but I decided to go and see.”
In a hamlet not far from the battlefield lives Elina, a 55-year-old farmer. “Psychologically it is difficultshe acknowledges, but we are so happy to see the Ukrainian soldiers! When they pass, we make the sign of the cross to protect them. But we are worried about all these shootings, these explosions. Just before you arrived we were in the basement to protect ourselves, we just came out.” On its portal, we see traces of splinters.
“There’s a lot of shooting: some days it’s every 5 minutes, sometimes it’s every hour. Sometimes it’s silent during the day and it’s at night. But often it’s very intense.”Elina, 55, resident near Vysokopillia
“A piece of arugula fell in our gardenshe describes. We were also bombed: look, the roof of the store is destroyed.” This counter-offensive, she was waiting for impatiently.
Igor, a pastor in a Protestant church, traveled to Vysokopillia and the surrounding area to distribute humanitarian aid, a hundred meals and drinking water. “The city is destroyed, we saw Grad missiles fall in the street next doorhe says. Thank God we are alive! The inhabitants are very happy to be freed, some were crying with joy.” He shows a video he shot with a resident of Vysokopillia: “There were only people left who knew the occupation, people burst into tearshe develops. They say the Russians were looking for young girls in particular, they were searching houses, they were looting, they were checking for wounded soldiers. People were exhausted but happy to be free.”
“A resident told us that a family had been shot, and the Russians came back to make sure they were dead by shooting them in the head. They did a lot of harm here.”Igor, pastor in Vysokopillia
“A resident showed us a house, where the Russians had dug a hole in the garden, to put the bodies of civilians there, according to her”, he adds. He urges the troops not to give up: “When we started to leave the city, there were strikes, the fighting continues. We must continue the counter-offensive!”
The police eventually arrive because shots from the Ukrainian army are heard. “This area continues to be dangerous, as the front line is not farexplains a policeman. There are rockets, they are also falling in the fields, the anti-aircraft system is on, we must not stay there.” In Vysokopillia, the noise of war is still very close.