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“Polyethylene for Roof and Plywood Instead of Windows”: How the Invaders Are Destroying the Town Near Zaporizhia

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Orikhiv, nicknamed the “tough nut” by the Russians because its name means “nut” in Ukrainian, is shelled every day by the Russians. Here you can see ruined houses and apartments everywhere, burned cars and garages, mutilated yards, and vegetable gardens – a picture that has unfortunately become almost commonplace for Ukrainians over the past five months.

Bihus.Info talked to residents of Orikhiv who live under constant shelling on the frontline.

Orikhiv encircled and under fire

Attempts to take the small town in the Zaporizhia region began on the second day of the full-scale invasion. On February 26, Oleksandr Starukh, head of the Zaporizhia Regional Military Administration, reported that Orikhiv was one of the “points of tension”. 

A few days later, in early March, Orikhiv became one of the areas where the enemy concentrated its forces. The Russians have amassed their vehicles there and were attempting to advance. The townspeople, meanwhile, were trying to figure out what was in store for them. 

“For Orikhiv, everything started out similar to other towns. All the citizens followed the news about Melitopol, Tokmak, etc., which had been seized. And that’s when we already knew it wasn’t far from us. At night we could hear the vehicles moving around, we could feel the explosions, then impacts started. Then there were problems with light, with merchandise in stores, and with the Internet,” journalist Ihor Huryev recalled.

The man added that people were hiding at home. Sirens announcing the air-raid alarm could be barely heard, so, according to Ihor, church bells took over that role. 

The city remained under the control of the Ukrainian defenders, but the surrounding villages of Nesterianka, Kopani, and Myrne were under temporary occupation. Unable to seize Orikhiv, the invaders began to shell it indiscriminately. Since there were no strategic military facilities on the territory of the city, the Russians focused on residential buildings, schools, and civilians.

“The shelling almost never stops. Mortars, barreled artillery of every caliber, Grads, and Uragans. There are also occasional air strikes,” related a Ukrainian serviceman (whose name and callsign we have withheld for security reasons) whose unit is defending the city.

These words are confirmed by numerous photographs. For example, this is how the houses in Orikhiv looked after they were attacked by the Russians with multiple rocket launchers in August. Fires broke out there after the shelling.

Source: Official channel of the Zaporizhia Regional Military Administration

Roofless and windowless

As of mid-July, 1,624 houses had been destroyed in the Zaporizhia Region, according to official data. The largest number was located in Orikhiv, where 214 houses were damaged. This number is constantly growing – in a single day (on July 28) in Orikhiv alone, the police recorded more than two dozen homes destroyed by enemy shelling.

Source: Official channel of the Zaporizhia Regional Military Administration

Source: National Police in the Zaporizhia Region

Each of these numbers represents someone’s fate. Pensioner Nediya lives in one of the damaged houses, unable to move elsewhere due to lack of opportunity. Her house’s roof, windows, and yard were severely damaged by an explosion.

“Now only the walls hold, polyethylene for roof and plywood instead of windows. The outbuildings burned down, and the car burned down. There’s nothing left,” said the woman. 

In an effort to help the locals save damaged buildings, volunteers patch holes in roofs and ceilings with polyethylene and cover windows with plywood or film. It is now the only way to protect yourself from the elements and keep living in the house.

“As for the situation in the city, everything is unstable, they periodically shell with artillery, Grads, Uragans. There are many damaged buildings in the city. Also, the villages of the Orikhiv community – Nesterianka village, Kopani village, and Myrne village – are still temporarily occupied. There are still problems with electricity, gas, water, food, and medicine,” said Oleksandr Sereda, a volunteer and member of the City Council.

Nadiya added that problems with electricity and water get solved quickly because repair crews immediately go to areas damaged by shelling. However, there are already concerns about how to survive this fall and winter. “There are a lot of pensioners and those caring after their bedridden parents left here. We have nowhere to go. Some have lived here all their lives, worked, and planted vegetables. And now our life is a pile of rubble,” said the elderly woman.

However, the locals have not lost hope. According to Ihor Huryev, locals who left earlier have already started returning to the city. 

Veronika Khorolska

This article was produced by Bihus.Info as part of the program “Supporting Ukraine’s Regional Media in Times of War” with the financial support of the European Union and the Foreign Ministry of the Kingdom of Norway. The content is the sole responsibility of Bihus.Info and does not reflect the views of the European Union, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.

Since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion, Ukrainian volunteers have been working at their limits to provide everything the military needs. They collect tens of millions of hryvnias, procure the much-needed pickup trucks and SUVs, and look for scarce but crucial copters, thermal imagers, and protective gear. They constantly risk their lives, making hundreds of trips to hot spots. 

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