What is a strategic lock? Partly because of its resilience. In Mykolaiv, a city in southern Ukraine that defends access to Odessa, the country’s main port, residents say they are determined to stay despite the relentless Russian bombings.
In the poor district of Ingolsky, an artillery rocket crashed into the asphalt, signaling to motorists and passers-by a building cone. A little further on, in the large cemetery of the city, another rocket sank into the ground up to the fort.
It was here a dozen relatives went on Monday to bury soldier Igor Dondoukov, 46, killed along with dozens of his comrades in a Russian attack on a barracks north of Mykolaiv four days earlier, whose official record is still unknown.
His older brother, Sergei, with gray hair, sobs kissing his swollen, blood-stained face, then his wife, Galina, sticks a crucifix into the front pocket of the deceased’s latticework before closing the green coffin to carry in the ground.
“He had enlisted in the army at the beginning of the invasion,” said Sergei Dondoukov. “We supported him in this commitment to protect our homeland,” he clarifies, ruling out any idea of departure while artillery fire resounds in the distance.
“We have nowhere to go, no family abroad,” declares his wife, Galina. Although a large part of the population of this city with 500,000 inhabitants has fled, especially towards Odessa, 130 km to the west, those who have remained say that they are determined to hold on.
In the afternoon, an air bombardment destroyed a building that, according to witnesses, housed a hotel and a bank on the ground floor. A few hundred meters away, Anatoly Yakunin, 79, quietly picks up the remains and shards of glass caused by the explosion.
“To go, but for what?”, He is surprised and reveals in a smile several gold teeth. “I have four grandchildren here, one of whom is at war, how could I leave them?” he asks.
In the Koulbakino neighborhood, which includes several apartment blocks, the population fell in a few weeks from 12,000 to less than a thousand people, says Alexandre Zadera, 56, who had to evacuate his eight-year-old mother from her apartment in a building hit by a strike on March 7.
Candles, tea and backgammon
“We got into the habit of having dinner with this kind of background noise,” he says of the echo from the nearby front. “Now even my mother knows how to recognize the sound of different types of shots or blows,” laughs this former Air Force colonel.
In the basement of the building, the residents have settled down in the long term. At the back of the shelter, between two mattresses, a game of backgammon that has barely started is temporarily abandoned.
In the main room, lit by candles, a teacher, Inna Kouriy, holds a lounge with her friends and neighbors in front of cups of tea. “We spend our evenings here praying for our soldiers our homeland,” she explains.
“Every time there is a raid or a strike, we go down here, so when it calms down, we go up again and so on,” Inna Kouriy continues. The teacher also tries to organize distance learning courses for students who have left Mykolaiv or Ukraine.
“We were a part of us here in the beginning, but many people left the city because they had children or family. We will stay here until the end, “she said.” We Ukrainians are patient people, but we will not give our land to anyone. “