As she held her baby in the only maternity clinic still operating in Kherson, the mother wept with relief.
Yulia Khomchyk, 37, found out she was pregnant when Russian forces seized the regional capital in the first days after the February invasion.
Nine months later, however, a major Ukrainian counter-offensive was able to liberate the city in one the most important victories of war so far. And just in time to allow for the birth.
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Yulia, who was nursing Maldina, a tiny Ukrainian girl, said that she was clearly Ukrainian and had been born without any occupation. She sat next to a radiator to keep her warm on a hospital mattress.
“I’m so happy that she is clearly Ukrainian. I am so glad, so glad.”
Kherson’s new freedom has made it a reality. Russian troops are now attackers and not occupiers. They launch deadly mortar and rocket strikes every day.
More than 40 civilians were killed and many others injured by the bombardments. On Monday, at least three people died in the latest bombardment.
The city is also suffering from power outages and a lack water supply. Many residents are dependent on food assistance to survive.
Although it is a daunting task for Halyna Louhova, de facto mayor, she stated that the city would persevere.
She said that the situation was “very difficult” in an interview with Sky News on Saturday.
“They shell us daily… innocent citizens die… but even though we will be starving, freezing, and without electricity, we will not be without Russians.”
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Sky News was able to take the mayor, known as the head for the Kherson military administration, to visit various aid points where water and basic food are being provided to the people.
While the majority of those waiting for support appeared to be retired, there were a few families with young children.
Dmytro Hubarev (44), said that life was difficult as he received a loaf bread, can of beans, and a tin ham. He said, “We were waiting to get heat and power.” “Now, we are under shelling.”
Several residents brought up specific problems to the mayor, including a woman complaining of pain in one eye.
She was assured by the mayor that they would give her a bag containing all necessary medicines. This bag will contain all the supplies necessary for humanitarian assistance.
Natalia Skyba (53), did not appear to be satisfied.
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Sky News asked her if she felt life was better after Russia’s occupation ended. She replied, “Worse.” Worse. They offer aid, but not to everyone.
But life in the city under Russian control was an entirely different kind of hell.
Opponents of the occupation lived in fear of being arrested, tortured, or even killed if they tried to resist Kremlin plans to make Kherson a part of Russia.
This is not a place most people want to return to, but it is becoming more difficult to decide which of the two evils is worse as Russian shelling increases.
Leonid Borovskyi (60) surveyed a large hold in the wall of his neighbor’s apartment on the seventh floor in an apartment block in a residential neighborhood of the city.
The Russian rocket that had crashed into the building last week caused the damage.
When asked if enduring Russian attacks was worth it for liberation, he took a deep breath before responding.
“From one side – yes. He said, “From the other side – no.”
“Freedom comes with a high price.”
Since Russia’s occupation began, more than 200,000 people have fled the city. The majority of them were there before liberation. Just 80,000 remain in their homes.
The Ukrainian government encourages more people to flee Ukraine because of the risk of incoming rounds.
Each afternoon, an evacuation train departs with new faces aboard.
Viktoria Tupinenko, 34, sat at a window with a table and described how her entire family celebrated Kherson’s liberation.
She stated that she couldn’t believe that a month later, she would have to flee with her 13-year old daughter and five-yearold son. Her husband stayed with his parents.
Viktoria cried, her eyes tearing up, “I can’t believe that I’m just leaving everything – my native land and my native home,” Viktoria stated.
“I’m leaving my husband, but I have to go. We don’t know how long, and I don’t know if or not my house will survive. I don’t even know if I’ll see my husband again.
She is certain that her pain is worth it to get her country free.
“Freedom yes! “We must hold on!”