The full-scale war in Ukraine has been going on for almost 2 months. During this time, russia has occupied some cities in the south and east of Ukraine and is trying to introduce its regime there. How do people there live now?
When we talk about cities under occupation, it is often difficult to imagine how people who have stayed in their homes and are forced to live in a city that is no longer quite “their own” feel. We talked to Nadia from Nova Kakhovka, who has been living under russian occupation for 57 days with her husband and family. For security reasons, we changed her name.
Nova Kakhovka is located in the Kherson region, just 80 km from Crimea. It is from the Kakhovka reservoir that water is supplied to the North Crimean Canal, so Kakhovka became one of the first strategic goals of russia. As of 2020, 45,422 people lived in the city. After the occupation of the city, the russian military replaced the authorities of Kakhovka and appointed several leaders from among the collaborators. The situation in the city is difficult but stable. Residents keep on believing and waiting for victory and liberation from occupation.
My city has been under occupation since the first days of the invasion. On February 24, our HPP was seized. There were no police or the AFU in the city at that time. Of course, we thought about leaving the first day, but we stayed because of parents who didn't want to leave the house. In the first weeks, there were huge queues to the shops, people took everything and in the biggest amounts possible. Now, we are already accustomed to a small range of goods. The biggest problem is the shortage of medicines and baby food. Prices have increased. I cannot compare with the prices in the territory controlled by Ukraine, but here are the current prices for some products: bread costs UAH 20–25; eggs (10) — UAH 50-65; water (5 l) — UAH 30-40; milk — UAH 20-30/l; sugar — UAH 85/kg; sunflower oil (5 l) — UAH 500-600.
People are running out of money
Many have lost their jobs. Payment is almost everywhere realized only in cash, very rarely you can pay by money transfer. And now that there's no internet, it can't be done anywhere. Banks are closed, and ATMs have not had any money since the first days of the occupation. Mobile connection constantly appears and disappears; if it were not for national roaming, then many people would be left without connection at all. Mobile internet is weak and appears extremely rarely, there has been no home Internet for a month.
There is light, gas, and water in the city. Utility bills are sent as before, but there is nothing to pay with.
There are loads of checkpoints and military equipment throughout Nova Kakhovka and the nearest villages. Russians drove through the city and walked around the houses, checked the yards and cellars, asked for documents, asked to take off our clothes to check the tattoos, checked the phones, and even took away phones from some people. In shops and supermarkets, they took away groceries without paying.
We paved the way along the bank of the Dnipro river and followed it to buy bread, so as not to follow the road through the checkpoint. Both cars and pedestrians are stopped at checkpoints.
We go around the city mostly on foot because there is no gasoline from the first days. However, recently, buses have begun to run on schedule. It is said that they began to import gasoline from russia via Crimea. In general, many things from russia have appeared here in recent days: all products, fruits, confectionery, cereals, and more. Some don't buy it because they learn that the goods are of russian origin, and some do because they need something to eat and feed their children.
People used to go to protests against the occupation, but now they have stopped because otherwise the occupiers threaten to cut off the city from everything.
I don't know if schools or kindergartens work, but schoolchildren with backpacks that go to school and back disappeared from our street long ago.
There are no official exit corridors
People leave using the same route (there is only one road left to leave Nova Kakhovka) at their own risk. There are many checkpoints along the way, and often you have to drive under the shelling.
We initially failed to understand how our city was so quickly occupied. Many blame the authorities.
In the beginning, people united and went to a rally for Ukraine. Despite the fact that there was no Internet and connection, we were able to gather with thousands of residents, walked across the city, and people joined us all the way. Near the building of the mayor's office, the rally was dispersed by the russian military, they began to shoot and throw certain things with tear gas into the crowd, it was impossible to breathe and eyes were watering.
The mayor (Volodymyr Kovalenko – ed.) did not even go out to the people. And then I lied on the air of the All-Ukrainian telethon that the rally lasted only an hour and allegedly there were not many people, and no one was hurt, but actually people were injured.
I miss smiling and happy people
The mood is constantly changing, but I don't feel like we've been forgotten. We all hope and look forward to being liberated. We want to believe that our oblast is not thought of as traitors. If there were previously those who were neutral or positive about russia, after what happened, many changed their attitude to sharply negative. However, as everywhere, there are collaborators and fans of the “russian world.” There are very few of them.
Of course, there is russian propaganda in the city now, but I would not say that it is active here. Russian humanitarian aid is being distributed, recently there has been something similar to a rally with russian flags and à la “Victory Day” songs. Nothing else.” I don't know what kind of propaganda it should be for people to believe it. Life has clearly gotten worse.
I really miss my family, who I don't know when I'm going to see. I also miss walking in my favorite park near the Dnipro, which I have not been able to get to since the beginning of the war. I miss smiling and happy people.
While we were preparing this material, Nadia was able to leave the occupied Kakhovka. She reported that to get out of the city, they had to pass at least 30 checkpoints. We hope that she and her family can get to a safe place.