Chernihiv, the city that resisted the Russians

Two weeks have passed since Russian troops abandoned their positions surrounding the city of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine. However, Elena Pazniak continues to sleep in her clothes, ready to enter an underground shelter at any moment. In front of the entrance to her building, she talks to Galyna Tchijenok, a retired neighbor who says she spends her nights on a cot in a hallway of the building. The right lens of Galyna Tchijenok’s glasses is broken. She would like to change it, but the stores are closed.

Galyna Tchijenok and Elena Pazniak at the foot of their building in Chernihiv, Ukraine, April 12, 2022.
Residents wait outside a food aid distribution point in Chernihiv, Ukraine, on April 12, 2022.

The two women survived more than a month without running water or electricity as Kremlin forces surrounded and shelled the city from February 24-1.it is April hoping to capture it. In the courtyard of the same building, Kristina Kijova explains that she spent several weeks in a town occupied by Russian forces, like much of the Chernihiv region. In Ripky, she spent her days in a shelter. Since her return, this young woman has joined the groups of volunteers who distribute humanitarian aid to a tormented population. “I think there will be a second wave, she said, concerned about the territory’s direct proximity to the Russian and Belarusian borders. But our army will be ready to receive them. »

Kristina Kijova, volunteer, at the foot of her building, in Chernihiv, Ukraine, April 12, 2022.

The population emerges from its lethargy. The city, strategically located on the road to kyiv, was protected by the ukrainian army and members of the territorial defense. But Russian forces continually shelled the outskirts and many buildings and apartment buildings in the city center. Today, the authorities are assessing the damage, delivering humanitarian aid and trying to make up for the lack of housing. Some neighbors mourn the disappeared. They get used to this disfigured environment.

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On the outskirts of the city, not far from the airbase, remnants of trench-lined Russian forces camps can be seen through the forest. On the floor, military rations, cans and piles of clothes.

Moving towards the center of the city, in front of the places affected by the air strikes, piles of rubbish from the explosions have already piled up. At various points in the center, long lines of men and women wait to receive humanitarian aid packages. Oleksandr Lomako, spokesman for the Chernihiv City Council, believes to date that « 10% » buildings have been destroyed by Russian bombing and that many “more than 35%” They are damaged.

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