Saltivka is still a wrecked place a year later. Broken infrastructure, buildings and, in the grips of this harsh winter, people are still broken.
Roman Myboroda (37), has not stopped aid delivery to the suburb of Kharkiv in Ukraine’s second largest city, located just 20 miles from Russia’s border.
This area was relentlessly shelled, and large holes remain in buildings that once housed 40,000 people.
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We last saw him only make morning trips in his small white van, as Russian attacks intensified in afternoon.
He is now at lunchtime today, which indicates that the threat has subsided.
Even with the Russian advance being rebuffed and the hourly thumps of outgoing and incoming fire not interrupting the eerie silence anymore, there is still a danger that it could happen again.
The terror is still there for those who are suffering extraordinary hardships and other desperate circumstances.
Anatolii Lymarenko’s face is a result of war. He is now 61 years old, and is the last person to still live in his nine-storey flat block.
It’s a steep climb to reach the seventh floor, where he calls home. Every window shows identical buildings that have suffered similar damage from missile attacks. It feels colder inside than outside.
Anatolii appears to have a dangerous mains gas supply that he uses to cook and to make soup. The toilet doesn’t work due to the fact that the cistern water cracked and froze, and there is no heating or hot water.
He stayed, despite everything. He says, “I have no other place to go.” He doesn’t have any family members to care for him and admits that it is scary being on your own. It’s not always easy, but it is bearable if there is no shelling.
Anatolii has a certificate from a factory where he worked for many years. It is displayed in Anatolii’s bedroom-cum living room. In an effort to rebuild what was lost, there are construction cranes scattered around Saltivka.
We leave Anatolii to watch his breath while he watches the old TV with very little signal. The antenna suddenly becomes stronger and the screen is lit up by loud jazz.
It’s an odd juxtaposition, a film noir caricature of Putin’s war not against the Ukrainianmilitary, but against the Ukrainian people.
A group of women, while taking their fair share of the donated supplies, are eager to show us the flat that was destroyed by Russian fire. They also want to see the place where missiles were placed through the floor, and the fate of the neighbours.
Nellia Chuber (71 years old) lives next to this burnt-out apartment shell. She has thought of leaving many times but decided to stay with Petro, her husband.
“I am concerned, of course I am. We listen to the news and don’t want it happening again.”
At least they have heating in the block. But she fears that the Russians will try to take over the city again. She must climb many flights of stairs with her husband to reach the basement bunker, which is still well-stocked with water, candles and prayer books.
The abandoned children’s playground has been covered in snow for nearly 365 days. The see-saws and climbing frames in bright colors are still intact. It’s difficult to imagine the attraction of swinging on the rubble of fallen buildings.
Saltivka, with its few remaining inhabitants, has been devastated by war. It is now a sad place that was once a happy place.