In a devastated Ukrainian village, winter brings more misery

With temperatures plummeting in eastern Ukraine, Sergiy Khumir says he has little choice but to use the piles of ammunition crates left behind by retreating Russian troops as firewood this winter.

Without trees, Kumir says, it would freeze among the ruins of the destroyed village of Kamyanka.

“The hardest part is getting enough chopped wood,” Kumil explains. “Huge lines are forming to get wood donated by volunteers.”

Kumir, whose home was largely destroyed by shelling, is still working hard to transform her summer kitchen into temporary winter accommodation. It is now filled with a furnace that combines blankets, ammunition boxes and Russian shells.

“We need to cover the walls with another piece of insulation,” adds Kumil as he scans the modest room where he hopes to see him over the winter.

In March, as Russian forces advanced south from Ijum early in the invasion, the village was shelled and strafed by helicopters before infantry and tanks stormed the area.

According to residents, after occupying the area, the Russians settled in, looted buildings, looted homes, stole alcohol, and drove drunk.

“They broke into garages and houses, got drunk all night and started throwing parties,” said Volodymyr Tsybulya, a 53-year-old resident, during a break from repairing the roof of his sister’s house.

“They were throwing grenades for fun. I came to my house and found the bathroom destroyed by grenades.”

And so it continued for many months until a lightning strike by Ukrainian forces in September shattered Russia’s northeastern flank, routing and disorganizing the army and sending it further east.

In the wake of the retreating army, a trail of destroyed villages was left behind, including Kamyanka on the outskirts of Izm in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine.

Weeks after regaining control of the area, Ukrainian authorities have discovered mass graves and rushed to pick up the debris while examining the damage to previously occupied areas.

Izm’s deputy mayor, Mihailo Ishku, said that with the onset of winter, the situation worsened, with nearly 30 to 40 percent of the city’s roofs destroyed in the fighting.

Shortages of building materials and construction machinery, as well as a shortage of labor, are making the cold weather more difficult, making much-needed repairs difficult. Temperatures are forecast to drop below freezing in the next few days.

Kamyanka’s situation is even worse, he admits. Nearly all of his 550 houses and buildings in the village have damaged or completely destroyed roofs.

“We are monitoring the situation closely,” he adds.

He notes that Izyum and its surrounding areas have become increasingly low on electricity and heating due to increasing blackouts following a wave of Russian attacks on infrastructure sites across Ukraine.

In Kamyanka, Lyubov Perepelizia alternates between telling the horrors he experienced during the Russian occupation and sharing his fears about the coming winter.

“They looted literally everything.

“How can you treat people so poorly?”

Most of the village’s 1,200 population have left the area, but Perepelica and her ailing husband join dozens of others planning to spend the winter in Kamyanka.

“I cried the river. This is our sixth place [during the war]“War seems to follow us everywhere we go,” says Peleperica.

“I don’t know how to get over this problem. I don’t know.” In a devastated Ukrainian village, winter brings more misery

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