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“They Completely Destroy the Village”: How Farmers in Mykolaiv Region Live Under Constant Shelling

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The village of Ukrainka is located on the border of the Mykolaiv and Kherson regions and therefore suffers from constant Russian attacks. The locals last saw Russians here in March, when a convoy of enemy vehicles drove onto the bypass road. The Ukrainian military struck, forcing the invaders to flee and use shells and missiles to fight with the locals from afar.

Most civilians from Ukrainka have already left, and those who stayed save neighboring houses from fire, tend to animals, and harvest crops in between shelling.

Liudmyla Holub manages the Avangard agricultural cooperative. The enterprise, which was built on the site of a former collective farm in Ukrainka, has been breeding cows, calves, and pigs for over 20 years, as well as growing wheat, barley, sunflower, and peas.

Since the beginning of March, the Russians have been attacking the Avangard regularly. 

Our enterprise was hit on March 10. It was the first shelling. It hit the calf barn, killing 12 calves,” the cooperative’s head said. 

Two days later, on the night of March 12-13, the invaders struck again. An aerial bomb destroyed the building housing the vegetable storage and grain processing machines. 

Another attack created a 5-meter crater right in front of the company’s office building. Then the calf barn was burned down, while the forge, workshop, and warehouses were damaged.

As a result of the Russian attack on the barn in September, the ceiling was damaged.

Animals also suffered from constant attacks. More than fifty calves died at the enterprise, and others were injured. Regular loud shelling led to stress and disease. Liudmyla Holub said that it couldn’t go on like this, so they decided that some of the calves and cows would be sent to a shelter, and others simply taken as far away as possible. The “big evacuation” was scheduled for June 3. On that day, the invaders’ attacks on the enterprise were particularly severe.

There was heavy shelling for an hour and a half. They [Russian military] were shooting until they smashed a cattle truck. I think the reason was that one cattle truck came right after another, and there was also a police escort. They must have thought from UAV [surveillance] that they were bringing us some weapons. I don’t know how we didn’t get killed there. “It was a miracle,” Holub recalled. 

For the second time, Lviv Region volunteers helped evacuate animals from the farm in the Mykolaiv Region, after seeing a request on social media. One of the volunteers was Andriy Kovch. He said that they immediately began to develop an evacuation plan and there were several options: to drive the animals across the field or to take them out on a Gazelle truck or cattle trucks. Already in the Mykolaiv Region, the plan was constantly changing. 

They had been living under shelling, they were not fit to be driven across the field, they would have just scattered,” Kovch said. 

Volunteers began to look for someone who would undertake to transport the animals, but entrepreneurs, hearing what was required, refused. Then they decided to buy transport on their own, even found a Gazelle truck, but realized that it would take several days to transport all the animals on a truck so small. As a result, the volunteers managed to negotiate with the owners of cattle trucks and find drivers willing to take the risk. 

“We also struck an agreement with certain units of the Armed Forces, which were based nearby,” Kovch added.

That day, they managed to evacuate more than a hundred animals, both calves and cows. They were moved to the Lviv Region, where they are now taken care of by utility workers of one of the local communities.

We currently employ 10 people at the enterprise. We arrive in the morning, do everything and leave. There were times when we came for an hour and were shelled with Grads. There are a few cows left, a few calves, we still have pigs. We still have grain from last year’s stock, we haven’t harvested new grain. We are trying to save it to feed the animals,” said Holub. 

The company uses more than 1,200 hectares of land. This year, experimental plots were made on some of the fields to see which varieties of wheat and barley grow better and yield more. According to Holub, the sowing campaign was marked by constant shelling, but the workers still went to the field. However, their efforts were in vain.

There were three irrigation systems in the fields, Russian tanks drove right over them. They burned everything, we couldn’t harvest anything. 50 hectares of grain burned, we couldn’t harvest peas. We just couldn’t get to them, and then it was too late. We also sowed 200 hectares of sunflower and cultivated it. I still plan to harvest it, but I don’t know, it is very difficult, the shelling does not stop,” said the head of the company.

In addition to their work, the remaining employees of the enterprise are maintaining life in the village. Most of the trouble is with the remaining pets, so the workers feed local cats and dogs, looking for new owners. In addition, they are trying to fight fires that occur after shelling. To do this, they use a generator to pump water into barrels.

We had our own fire truck at the enterprise, a straightforward, primitive one, but if something catches fire, we do what we can to extinguish it so that it does not spread to other houses. More than 60 shells have hit recently. They are just shelling, destroying the village. There are practically no houses left intact and people cannot repair them, because as soon as they seem to have calmed down, the drones start flying again. We are on the line of fire,” said Holub. 

Maryana Sych

This article was created by Bihus.Info as part of the project “EU Urgent Support for Civil Society” implemented by ISAR Ednannia with the financial support of the European Union. The content of the article is the sole responsibility of Bihus.Info and does not necessarily reflect the position of the European Union.

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