“Every morning I wake up and check the news to see if where she lives is ok“, says Olena, 41 years old.
Contact between the two women has been sporadic and dependent on the fickle phone signal since Russian forces destroyed Kherson’s power supply in their flight in mid-November.
“I managed to talk to him, tell him almost everything I wanted to tell him, but the connection broke“, relates Olena.
Within days of the start of the invasion of Ukraine in late February, Russian forces invaded large swaths in the south of the country, crossed the Dnieper River and seized Kherson, before being stopped by the Ukrainian army.
The river, which crosses Ukraine, now separates the Kherson region in two: the western bank liberated and controlled by Ukraine, the eastern bank under Russian occupation.
And families are separated, on both sides of the river.
– “ be patient “-
“My brother, my sister, my niece, and my granddaughter“are on the other side,” said Kherson resident Natalia Olkhovykova, 51.
“We are very worried because we learned that their whole village is full” of Russian soldiers, she continues, before recovering herself: “I shouldn’t say more, for their safety“.
In the city, residents line up for humanitarian aid, against the backdrop of detonations of Grad rockets and heavy artillery fire: the Ukrainian army continues to target Russian positions on the eastern bank, where also live relatives of Tatiana Maliutyna.
“They’re waiting to be released“, says this 54-year-old medical employee, who works at the hospital.
“They were happy and they called us when they heard the good news on November 11“, announcing the withdrawal of the Russian army, she says. “I told them: ‘Be patient’“.
However, the Dnieper constitutes a sizeable obstacle for the continuation of the Ukrainian counter-offensive. The bridges connecting the two banks have been destroyed and a frontal amphibious assault against the entrenched Russian positions is proving risky.
“Ukrainian forces are likely to have a harder time achieving such spectacular successes in the eastern part of the Kherson region, but they could disrupt Russian efforts to solidify and hold their defensive lines.“, recently wrote the American think tank, Institute for the Study of War.
Olga Marchenko, 47, recounts her frustration at not knowing how much longer Russian forces will occupy the other side, where her family lives.
“And when they are released, we hope to find them“, she sighs.