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The difficult reconstruction of Kharkov, after the Russian bombs, told from a shoe workshop

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Larisa cleans a tiny shoe workshop in Kharkiv scarred from a bombardment: rubble, dust and broken glass litter the ground. It is the third time they have suffered a close attack in recent months. Each time they repair the damage again, although a feeling of discouragement and weariness spreads: “When will this end?”

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“We try to save what we can,” explains the employee from the small workshop located inside a vocational training center attacked by a missile. The explosion destroyed part of the external structure and the shock wave has shattered doors and windows. There is a huge crater at the entrance.

No one was injured because the attack was at dawn, probably from Belgorod, a Russian city located 80 kilometers away.

“Russia said that the war was to save the Russian minority and they have destroyed the two largest Russian-speaking cities in Ukraine, Mariupol and Kharkov,” criticizes Zhenya, another company worker. Zhenya and Larisa, like the vast majority of the population, communicate in Russian.

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Half a dozen people work in the small workshop of the “Storm” brand, which produces a few hundred shoes a week, and they have begun to clean and catalog what has been saved.

Larisa says that she has been working for the company for more than a decade, that they have already given up three months of salary and that there is demand for the shoes they produce, but that it is difficult to work like this.

When asked why they are not leaving, he shrugs and explains: “I am from Kharkov, why am I leaving?” The municipality is trying to temporarily relocate some of the companies to other safer areas of the country.

A work of decades

Before the war, Kharkiv – the country’s second most populous city with 1.4 million – was a large industrial center, and, among other things, produced most of Ukraine’s footwear. Now the city is almost deserted and its economy largely wiped out.

In addition, geography works against it: the city is only 30 kilometers from Russia, which makes it very vulnerable to attacks and makes it difficult to rebuild until the end of the fighting.

Experts say it could take years, maybe decades, to rebuild the metropolis. But municipal workers and volunteers, for now, are trying to make the present livable for those who remain, since two-thirds of the population has left.

Public services continue to function despite the bombing and the metro, tram and buses run through the city. The bombings also continue, which are especially prevalent in industry and educational centers.

Both the city and the region are among the most destroyed in the country and the damage is estimated at tens of billions of euros. About 3,000 of the capital’s 8,000 civilian buildings have been damaged or destroyed, according to official figures.

The mayor, Igor Terekhov, assured that at the conference on the reconstruction of Ukraine that has been held in Lugano (Switzerland), both the United States and Turkey have shown interest in helping with the reconstruction.

“Kharkov will become the ideal city of the future, and we are committed to doing so as soon as possible,” he said optimistically.

Some analysts fear that once Russia achieves its objectives in Donbas it will turn its eyes on Kharkov and the city will return to the front line of combat.

“We will build a better world”

After each attack, the municipality tries to remove the debris with mechanical shovels and the workers must multiply due to the enormous destruction left by each projectile.

On Wednesday, a missile destroyed the Hryhoriy Skovoroda Pedagogical University, including the statue of the Ukrainian philosopher after whom the center was named.

The attack killed a security guard and also destroyed the wall on which was written a phrase by the philosopher that serves as the center’s motto: “We will build a better world, we will make tomorrow brighter.”

For Ukrainians, Kharkov is a city known for poetry, art, commerce, industry, scientific discoveries, just everything that Russia is bombing most viciously.

Among those who have come to rescue what remains of value in the rubble of the university is Volodímir, who has been linked to the center for almost three decades.

The 54-year-old tries to save the works that in the past were the graduation works of former students. Some of the paintings he has collected from the rubble and ruins are by authors now well known in the Ukraine.

“The director asked me to come to lend a hand to save what can be done,” he explains among the ruins. “The Russians try to destroy everything to demoralize us, but we are stronger than bombs,” he maintains.

Source: Gestion

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