‘As long as he stays, I stay’, survival stories in the ‘gray zone’

reportageIn the south of the country, our reporter Florence Obenas and photographer Chloe Sharrock are not far from the front line, in an area sandwiched between Ukrainian and Russian forces. War, here, is experienced at the level of men and women, in an apocalyptic setting.

To the east, the Russian front line follows the small path behind the hill. To the west, Ukrainian sites descend along the river. Between the two weaves a thin tongue of earth – 2 kilometers wide and 10 long – separating the two armies, but neither of them controls: the “gray zone”. In Kherson Oblast, in the south From Ukraine, for whose sake we die day after day in the muck of trenches. Crawl to earn some weeds. Go to the big walnut tree, or at least what’s left of it. To return. Expect. Head back to the bus terminal armored with machine guns. Try to proceed again. Since the beginning of the invasion, this little pocket has become a symbol. Only in the Kherson Territory, under Russian occupation, he is still resisting, preventing Moscow from declaring the complete capture of this region and imposing the association of this region with the Russian Federation.

A woman just evacuated from Usukurivka, in Kherson Oblast, leaves to join her daughter in hospital in a nearby town.  Novovorontsovka, Ukraine, May 21, 2022.

With touches of the Cote d’Azur, tourist signs announce a promising atmosphere: “Novorontsovka, the south starts here.” Returning to the gray area, Novovorontsovka is the last city to remain under Ukrainian administration in the territory. War set up its headquarters there, and shaped men and things. In the light of dawn, a rooster’s crowing competes with the sound of gunfire. Some streets have been wiped out, others intact, charming villas, manicured vegetable gardens, and riverside beaches. Suddenly, the air rips, the machine hits a building, as if on whim or by chance. It’s a chaos strategyExplains Colonel Vitale, who commands this last stronghold. Before that, the Russians bombed strategic places, knowing our positions. Now they are shooting without any plan, a game of roulette to scare people away. »

Don’t give up on the city

Here, the colonel is one of the few professional soldiers, no more than 3% of the local battalion, according to him. to me Novovorontsovka as elsewhere, the conquest exposed the weakness of the state and the strength of society. “The resistance came from them, from the ordinary citizens”And the The colonel continues. The mayor deserted himself in March. A few weeks later ran into him, and they were just passing by, looking for his personal belongings.

With the war, to tell the truth, the city began to empty. Some left quietly without saying goodbye. We do not judge them. We don’t talk about it. It’s part of Secret Wounds. Of the 8,500 inhabitants, only 1,500 are left, which is indicative of an influential determination. Don’t give up on the city. Don’t let the forces defend the ghost town. ‘It would already be a defeat’And the Natalia, 50, who is responsible for culture and education, is the only one who has not left the arena. She remembers the early days of the invasion, in February, when she did not dare to get out of the bunker. Now she goes to town hall every day. “You have to come.”

You have 82.03% of this article left to read. The following is for subscribers only.

Leave a Comment