A year of war in Ukraine Only victory lies ahead

A year of war in Ukraine: “Only victory lies ahead!” » | War in Ukraine

The airborne alarm siren sounds on the phone, but doesn’t stop the baker. Another missile flies towards Kharkiv. It doesn’t matter: the woman pours the flour into her bowl.

She remains stoic, not only because the kitchen she works in is a safe space installed in a basement, but also because Kharkiv has seen others since the Russian invasion.

In the fall, one of these rockets crashed before trading. One customer was injured, the staff was shaken, manager Valentyna recalls. But the next day everything was cleaned up and work resumed.

The bread that connects and nourishes

There is no other way, because too many people are dependent on this trade. During the week-long siege, bread could only be found here in all of Kharkiv.

Four bakers at work.

Many Ukrainians rely on this Kharkiv bakery for food, where Tetiana, Iryna, Alla and Olena work.

Photo: Radio Canada / Yanik Dumont Baron

Up to 2000 loaves of bread were offered daily. They were given out through a small window in the store. There was a monster queue! You had to see that! People came despite the shooting, she said.

Russian troops were driven out of the city in May. Urgent needs have decreased, but they have not disappeared. Nowadays, the loaves of bread are offered to those living near the fighting.

“Over the past year we have realized how important bread is. People need it badly in times like these. That’s why we offer a lot of them. »

— A quote from Valentyna, a baker in Kharkiv

With the conflict, the bakery lost its name, a play on words in the Russian language, now tasteless. However, the employees have found their right to exist in a country where war disrupts everyday life.

No one here says they’re exhausted after a year of conflict. We’ve been through the worst, Valentyna assures. And ahead of us is only victory. Nobody here doubts it.

To be useful

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The largely deserted town of Lyman is in the crosshairs of the Russian army. This woman decided to stay Photo: Radio-Canada

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  • Image 1 of 6A woman pulls a cart with groceries through a village in Ukraine.

    The largely deserted town of Lyman is in the crosshairs of the Russian army. This woman decided to stay Photo: Radio-Canada

  • Image 2 of 6Snow-covered houses in a village in Ukraine.

    In one of the areas of Lyman where some still live Photo: Radio-Canada / Yanik Dumont Baron

  • Image 3 of 6A warmly dressed woman and her daughter.

    Zlata (21 months) and her mother Alina. The little girl learned to throw herself to the ground when the artillery blasts were too strong, her mother says Photo: Radio-Canada / Yanik Dumont Baron

  • Image 4 of 6A man sitting on a small bench on a street in winter in Ukraine.

    Viktor still lives in Lyman. He explains that he was beaten by Russian soldiers when they occupied the city for singing a Ukrainian patriotic anthem Photo: Radio-Canada / Yanik Dumont Baron

  • Image 5 of 6Students in a classroom in Ukraine.

    One of the few Lyman schools still open, these students are excited to discover the foods and surprises offered by volunteers Photo: Radio-Canada / Yanik Dumont Baron

  • Image 6 of 6A warmly dressed man on a bicycle on a street in Lyman, Ukraine.

    One of the few Ukrainians still living in Lyman Photo: Radio-Canada / Yanik Dumont Baron

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This mindset seems to be common across the country. It takes different forms depending on the means and contacts of Ukrainians. Some use their knowledge. Others put themselves in danger.

It is often civilians who evacuate their compatriots from the areas most heavily hit by artillery. Strangers who bring toys to the children left in this hell who offer their parents some food.

Zhenya is one of them. Tall and smiling, he left his job at a web marketing firm to coordinate this self-help effort. Since then he has stopped counting the hours.

We save lives. Just last week I was evacuating people from hotspots near the fighting. There was this woman who couldn’t feel her legs anymore. She spent too much time hiding in the basement.

The woman was taken to the hospital. Another compatriot in the shelter. It doesn’t erase the memory of those who left when Zhenya returned a few weeks later.

Feeding Lyman, ghost town

A team of volunteers regularly leaves Kharkiv for the battles, vehicles loaded with food, candles and warm clothes.

They are received by about fifty residents in a largely destroyed lyman. There is no running water or heating. Electricity and telephone are rarely available.

No one is in a hurry: everyone will have their share. Antibiotics and other medicines are in high demand. It is used for the heart, against pressure, against fever or against pain.

A woman hands out medication on a street in Lyman.

Distribution of drugs to Lyman

Photo: Radio Canada / Yanik Dumont Baron

The humans say thank you and slowly return to their shelter. Zhenya makes sure to read a lot of gratitude in her eyes.

The atmosphere is relaxed this afternoon. Some residents stroll and chat with visitors. A respite for a team that works long hours, sometimes under enemy fire.

During a recent trip to a village not far from the front, volunteers were attacked by Russian tanks. We hid for two hours. It was scary, said one.

A terror that leaves traces. I’ve been doing something like this for a year, but this time really grabbed me. I needed a long sleep when I got home. It’s not in our hands.

A two-room apartment for five people

An old building in Kharkiv with a Ukrainian flag painted on a facade.

Displaced people are housed in Kharkiv in this old university complex.

Photo: Radio Canada / Yanik Dumont Baron

Not everyone has that energy or will. Especially not the ones who just lost everything. This is evident at the end of the day in the inner courtyard of a huge Soviet-style building complex.

The Ukrainian Red Cross came to offer a hot meal to displaced people. Rice pilaf to eat in the small room of an old college dorm.

A gloved hand fills a bowl with hot rice.

The Ukrainian Red Cross came to offer a hot meal to displaced people in Kharkiv.

Photo: Radio Canada / Yanik Dumont Baron

A young woman invites us to follow her through dark corridors. Everything is brown, poorly lit. The communal kitchen and toilets are immaculate. A sad mood is in the air.

The smell that emanates from the small room where we are invited is very strong, even repulsive. A pink and green shower curtain stretched by a cord provides some privacy between the beds.

Two teenagers share this room and another with their parents and grandmother. All survivors from Kupyansk, a hundred kilometers from Kharkiv. A city that is now getting too close to the fighting.

Everything the family owns fits into these two rooms. Almost everything was given to them. They got here the day after Christmas. They don’t seem to have recovered from the shock.

” Everything was fine. I had a steady job, my sons were studying. And then, boom! Overnight the “liberators” came. They freed us from everything. »

— A quote from Oleksandr, a father who lost everything

The grandmother is silent. Tears run down her cheeks when she sees herself in a photo taken at the dorm. The reality that strikes immediately. The emptiness in front of you

A Ukrainian family is standing in a room.

Part of Oleksandr’s family. From left to right: his mother, himself, one of his sons and his wife Zaryna.

Photo: Radio Canada / Yanik Dumont Baron

Zaryna, Oleksandr’s wife, refuses to point the finger at Vladimir Putin. What good is it if not to relive all those traumas? Why twist the iron in the wound?

It’s you who decides, she breathes. You, the politicians, the diplomats, the soldiers. It’s not in our hands. You can’t erase everything that happened.

Now everything just needs to be rebuilt. But where to start again?