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11 o’clock, time of the bombing in Kharkiv

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Every night at the same time the silence in Kharkiv is a slow wait for the next missile.

KHARKIV, UKRAINE.— At 11 pm, over and over again, some hide in the basements or in the showers, others go out to smoke nervously, there are those who laugh while going up and down the stairs doing things. Some alarm clocks sound warning, the conversations -often, by chat- overlap, some seek to know where theirs are. And the terrifying silence is a slow wait for the next missile.

Any time these days is a good time to hear an explosion in Kharkiv, a city in which it is becoming impossible to keep track of the many daily attacks that are heard from the outskirts, but also from different parts of the city. The situation in the strategic Ukrainian city, the second largest in Ukraine, has deteriorated with the reactivation of the Russian offensive in the homonymous region, now more than a week ago.

The shots are also heard, with increasing frequency, in broad daylight, but it is the anti-aircraft sirens at 11 o’clock at night that warn of the most disturbing and noisy attacks, often followed by shock waves that make tremble walls, doors and windows. After that, the burglar alarms of the parked cars go off for a long time, blending into the sound of dogs barking madly in unison non-stop.

At night, the city of Kharkiv dissipates. Very few lights remain intrepidly lit since the sun goes down. The curtains of the houses are closed and the lanterns in the gardens stop working so that not even the slightest sparkle can filter through. Only a few lost cars make their way through the streets like fireflies between dead streets. Sometimes, military vehicles pass. Other times, a pistol shot is heard. The city receives its rain of martyrdom with a stealthy panic.

In the mornings, the Kharkovites collect the rubble of the destruction

It is a paradox of another war difficult to understand. Forced to stay awake until the end of the macabre nocturnal reiteration, to sleep for fewer hours, it is only in the morning that the Kharkovites finally sweep the sidewalks, collect the rubble, the glass, the bricks of buildings shattered and blackened by fires. Harvest of destruction, dust and ashes.

A man moves items from a store damaged after a military strike last night, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in a residential area in Kharkiv, Ukraine on June 7, 2022.
A man moves items from a store damaged after a military strike last night, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in a residential area in Kharkiv, Ukraine on June 7, 2022. REUTERS – IVAN ALVARADO

And then life returns. People take a shower, get ready, put on makeup, go to work, feed the cats, go to the supermarket, use the subway, meet in the bars that are still open and in the restaurants that prepare the daily menus from dawn. You only pay attention to the mobile phone applications that notify you of the alerts, and the news that is circulating in the endless number of instant messaging groups.

Seasoned drivers have already learned to avoid the barricades —now painted like traffic signs—, they know which stretches to avoid at all costs, when to speed up and when not to. The latter, repeatedly through a checkpoint where they are asked to show the documentation.

Daylight is also used for the delivery of humanitarian aid, meetings in the most unthinkable places between capitals and Army colonels, planning for the resistance. If one has their own vehicle, visits to relatives or operations to evacuate friends from occupied towns are also studied. Sometimes, love is made. Sometimes these moments of passion are interrupted by bombs and the moment fades.

People clear debris next to an office building that was bombed the night before near downtown Kharkiv, which had not been bombed in weeks, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues in Kharkiv, Ukraine, June 25, 2022.
People clear debris next to an office building that was bombed the night before near downtown Kharkiv, which had not been bombed in weeks, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues in Kharkiv, Ukraine, June 25, 2022. REUTERS – LEAH MILLIS

Hardly anyone here believes that the war will end quickly. “Maybe in a year,” say some. The uneasiness is also reflected in the many young men who try to avoid the soldiers deployed throughout the city to recruit new citizens for war. It is not known how many thousands have died or how many will die yet.

Some dream of what they will do when the war is over. They imagine traveling around the country, with the family, fishing in a lake, climbing in the middle of idyllic landscapes. And they are moved. Now that they have to fight to survive, they have not yet processed what they have experienced. They haven’t broken yet.

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Written by Editor TLN

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