War-Torn: Stories from Ukraine - Shelter and aid depot bombed
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - In a battered Ukrainian front-line town, it was one of the few places to go for safety. Orikhiv’s Community Center was a shelter and depot for humanitarian aid, but this weekend, a Russian bomb leveled the structure and killed several people.
I visited that shelter in June, when dozens called it home and hundreds came for dinner.
At dawn, the fear of pounding artillery rules Orikhiv, a town 10 to 15 miles from the front. At dusk, it’s the screaming nightmares from a year and a half of war.
“It’s fearful because there’s bombs flying everywhere, and it’s unexpected,” said Svitlana Mandrych, the acting mayor in Orikhiv, said. “It’s chaos.”
In the town turned into a wasteland, there was one reliable refuge, a place where a different sound rolled through the air. A military chaplain crooned ‘Let My People Go’ with his saxophone, and another gave a sermon. People swapped stories and even danced.
“I’m super proud of our people that they have united together,” Mandrych said. “And young age, older age, teenagers. and they help each other out.”
Mandrych had been leading the town since the mayor fled.
“I’m staying here for my future, for my grandson,” Mandrych said. “We want to live a normal life without the Russians being here, and he will see our garden we put together.”
Her office was in the basement of the shelter next to the common room and the only place in town with showers and washers.
“What keeps me motivated is knowing that we will prevail, that we will be victorious,” Mandrych said. “Everything will get back to normal. that we can see and hear our kids playing on a playground.”
But that normal life is still unattainable in Orikhiv, underscored by the shelter’s devastation by a Russian guided aerial bomb on Sunday. All that remains is rubble.
My contacts in Ukraine said some of the people I spoke with and filmed either died or were hospitalized, but the details are still unknown.
Copyright 2023 KOLN. All rights reserved.