Nailed for three weeks to her bed in the basement of a hospital in Mykolaiv, beaten by Russian artillery, Sofia, 13, still has shrapnel in her skull despite three surgeries. But she keeps a smile and her head full of dreams: To play guitar and become a painter.
After terrible weeks in which the Russian army tried in vain to conquer this city on the way to Odessa, the largest port in Ukraine, the threat in recent days seems to be waning. The front has even retreated significantly with a Ukrainian counter-offensive on Kherson, about 80 km to the southeast, the only major city that the Russian army has claimed to have occupied completely since the start of its invasion of Ukraine. .
Although yellow buses leave the city every morning on their way west to house dozens of people, many of them children, residents are beginning to hope for a return to an almost normal life.
“The horizon is starting to clear”
This Sunday, a Ukrainian soldier who says his name is Sacha, with his face hidden by a scarf, even found time to come and buy a large bouquet of flowers for his mother. “People feel safer now,” he notes. “The horizon is starting to clear up.”
If there are still alarms about air bombardments, the sirens hardly disturb the spectators, more and more on the streets, markets or in the queues in front of the ticket machines.
Friday’s announcement from the Russian army that it is now concentrating its efforts on the eastern part of the country does not reassure Irina Nalivaïko, 21, who walks around looking carefree with smartphone in hand on one from the main roads. “We have family there. Even though they bomb cities other than Mykolaiv, it is still Ukraine,” she said.
It was one of the attacks by the Russian army on a village near Mikolaiv on March 5, which led the young Sofia to the basement of a children’s hospital, from which she dreams of leaving soon.
“She got shards in her head, some of which have not yet been able to be removed,” explains her mother, Ludmila, by the bed of the teenager, lying under a colorful blanket with a large white teddy bear as a companion, in the neurosurgical department bounded by sheets hung on a wire with clothespins.
“Now I can move my arms and legs a little, not yet get up without my mother’s help, but I hope to be able to go out soon,” says Sofia, stoically, tying her hands and near her temple.
“She has already undergone several operations, but there are still pieces. His life is no longer in danger, but it could harm his health, and therefore we are preparing to operate on him again, ”says Irina Tkatchenko, who is the official doctor at the establishment.
“I know I must not let go, otherwise I will break,” says Ludmila, swallowing a sob before she recovers, a little reassured by the courage her daughter shows.
“Slightly stabilized situation”
“I want to make a guitar to learn to play,” Sofia proclaims, “when my little brother cracked mine.” “But we’re buying one,” her mother promises her gently. “I dream of becoming an artist. I studied painting for a semester ”, Sofia continues ingeniously. “I want to be a famous painter and live off my art”.
On the other side of the curtain, little Micha, 5, lost her mother in a bombing raid. With his head wrapped in a thick bandage, he gets up from his stuffed bed to let his grandparents help him get dressed.
“We turned our basement into a shelter, divided into sections for neurosurgery, surgery, traumatology and neonatology,” explains Irina Tkatchenko.
“At the height of the war, when we were attacked by the ‘fascists’, there are no other words, we got twelve children hospitalized with injuries of varying severity,” says the hospital’s chief physician, Alexander Plitkin, “also as two as we could not save ”.
“Now the situation has stabilized a bit,” he notes. Another factor contributing to the population of Mykolaiv’s sense of newfound freedom: the region’s governor, Vitaly Kim, eased restrictions on the sale of alcohol to allow it over the weekend, but warned that they would be reinstated in case of surplus.