One year after liberation, Ukrainians in Kherson hold on to hope amid constant shelling

by Madison Thomas
Kherson liberation anniversary

A year has passed since Ukrainian forces reclaimed Kherson from Russian control, and its citizens have become familiar with the sound of artillery fire from the opposing Russian forces positioned on the Dnieper river’s left bank. The residents recognize this as a warning, giving them a mere seven seconds to seek cover or a substantial barrier for protection.

Their daily lives revolve around the safety of their homes and the essential trips to the supermarket. With many stores still closed, municipal employees, donned in bulletproof vests, are often seen clearing debris from recent attacks.

Amid intermittent artillery fire from the riverfront, marking the frontline in the Kherson region, locals cautiously step out to purchase groceries, ride bicycles along verdant neighborhood paths, or visit the handful of restaurants that continue operating.

The first anniversary of Russia’s defeat on November 11 is met with mixed emotions. Although Ukraine’s counteroffensive persists, the anticipated significant victories have not materialized. Nevertheless, the residents who remain are unwavering in their belief that normalcy will eventually return.

Grigori Malov, the proprietor of one of the three remaining restaurants, reflected on the value of freedom, having experienced life under occupation. This perspective, he believes, strengthens their resolve against the ongoing bombardment.

The expulsion of Russian forces from Kherson, following a prolonged Ukrainian offensive, was a pivotal victory for Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit to the liberated city symbolized hope and anticipation for further progress in reclaiming occupied territories. However, the conflict has since evolved into a protracted stalemate.

On a rain-soaked Saturday, the city’s mood was subdued. Only a few ventured out to commemorate the anniversary, wary of potential Russian attacks. Some gathered briefly at a monument near the administrative building, donning Ukrainian flags, before dispersing.

Malov, who didn’t operate his restaurant during the nine-month Russian occupation, reopened his establishment to contribute to the city’s revival. His restaurant, featuring a cafe and a basement dining area, has become a venue for celebrations and a refuge for Ukrainian soldiers seeking a break from the frontlines. Malov occasionally organizes comedy nights, offering a momentary escape from the harsh realities outside.

The continuous sound of artillery dictates the residents’ daily routines, with morning and late afternoon being particularly intense periods for shelling. Air raid sirens are a constant backdrop.

According to Oleksandr Tolokonnikov, a spokesperson for the Kherson Regional State Administration, the city endures 40-80 shellings daily. Tolokonnikov recalled the euphoria during the city’s liberation but noted that the shelling began shortly thereafter and has been relentless.

In addition to security concerns, economic challenges are paramount. With a significant reduction in population, job opportunities are scarce, affecting the predominantly elderly residents who remain.

Dmytro and Olena, a young couple, were spotted at the Kherson regional administrative building, displaying the Ukrainian flag and taking photos to mark the liberation anniversary. Despite safety concerns, they expressed a strong desire to stay in their hometown.

The responsibility of cleaning the city streets, including clearing autumn leaves, falls to municipal workers like Konstantin Krupenko and his team. Dressed in bulletproof vests, they alternate between this unusual task and their more typical duty of removing rubble from explosion sites. Krupenko described the loss of a colleague to a rocket attack and another’s injury, underscoring the constant risks they face.

Despite the ongoing challenges, the people of Kherson remain resilient, adapting to a new normal marked by the sounds of war and the hope for a peaceful future.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Kherson liberation anniversary

How have the lives of Kherson residents changed one year after liberation?

One year after Ukraine retook Kherson from Russian forces, residents have adapted to a new normal marked by the constant sound of shelling and a life mostly confined to their homes and necessary supermarket visits. Many shops remain closed, and municipal workers, tasked with clearing debris from attacks, wear bulletproof vests for protection. Amid periods of artillery fire, people cautiously go about their daily routines, indicating a resilient adaptation to the challenging circumstances.

What does the anniversary of Kherson’s liberation signify for its residents?

The anniversary of Kherson’s liberation from Russian control is a bittersweet occasion. It marks a significant victory in Ukraine’s ongoing conflict with Russia, yet it also highlights the slow progress of Ukraine’s counteroffensive and the continuous state of conflict. Residents remain hopeful for a return to normalcy, reflecting on the importance of freedom and resilience in the face of adversity.

How is the local community in Kherson coping with the ongoing conflict?

The local community in Kherson copes with the ongoing conflict through various means. Some establishments, like restaurants, continue to operate, providing a sense of normalcy and a place for people to gather. Residents have adapted their daily routines to accommodate the frequent shelling and air raid alarms. Despite the challenges, there is a sense of community resilience and a determination to maintain a semblance of normal life amid the conflict.

What are the current conditions in Kherson regarding employment and security?

The conditions in Kherson are challenging, with security concerns due to frequent shelling and a lack of employment opportunities. The city’s population has significantly decreased, leaving mostly elderly residents. Municipal workers face risks in their daily duties, and the general populace must constantly adapt to the unpredictable nature of the conflict. The economic and security challenges underscore the harsh realities of life in a city recovering from occupation and still in the midst of conflict.

More about Kherson liberation anniversary

  • [Ukraine Ministry of Defence]
  • [Kherson City Administration]
  • [International Crisis Group on Ukraine Conflict]
  • [Humanitarian Impact of the War in Ukraine]

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Anna K. November 11, 2023 - 3:09 pm

good article but there are some typos, and the flow is a bit off in places, still the message comes through strong, these people are heroes in their own right,

Lena Smith November 11, 2023 - 5:17 pm

it’s sad to see how much they are suffering, I hope the conflict ends soon for them. can’t imagine living like that,

Tom Richards November 11, 2023 - 5:38 pm

I think the article could’ve focused more on the military aspect? like what’s the strategic importance of Kherson in the broader conflict,

Mike Johnson November 12, 2023 - 5:53 am

really powerful piece, it really shows the spirit of Kherson’s people, living with constant shelling is unimaginable, but they keep going, incredible resilience,


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