‘It only brings us together’: the challenge as deadly strikes bring war back to Kyiv | Ukraine
SHevchenko Park in central Kyiv is a tranquil public garden, where the trees turn golden against the city’s blue, autumnal sky. Presiding over the park is a statue of Taras Shevchenko, the national poet of Ukraine, persecuted by Russians in the 19th century for writing in Ukrainian.
But on Monday, that sense of calm was violently shattered when a series of missiles hit the city center. The war had returned to what had been, for several months, a mostly peaceful – if anxious – town.
It was around 8.15 a.m. local time (06.15 a.m. BST) during rush hour when a major road junction next to the park, near the Taras Shevchenko National University science library, was hit. . The rocket blast destroyed three cars, killing several occupants. Footage from the immediate aftermath showed vehicles on fire and rescue workers tending to the injured.
Another missile struck the children’s playground in Shevchenko Park itself, destroying cobblestones, twisting play equipment and snapping a nearby tree. Other missiles fell near the main station, near the Troieshchyna power station on the left bank of the Dnieper and on a footbridge over the river.
Novelist Victoria Amelina, who since the start of the 2022 Russian invasion has also been a war crimes researcher, was in the city center when the missiles hit, having just arrived on the Lviv-Kyiv sleeper train.
While waiting for a taxi, she heard the sound of at least two explosions. As she took a taxi home, she saw “dark clouds and debris” near what is informally known as the Klitschko Bridge, after the mayor of Kyiv. The glass-bottomed pedestrian and bicycle bridge, spanning the Dnieper, opened in 2019 and is often busy with walkers and tourists.
“It’s not a strategic goal,” she said. “If they hit this bridge, it’s a strange revenge for the Crimean Bridge – it’s a bridge where tourists walk.”
Her route then took her past the Shevchenko Park junction, which had been hit minutes earlier. “It looked like they were either trying to hit the university or the statue of Taras Shevchenko,” she said. “Unfortunately, they hit cars: I saw the fires and the cars on fire.”
She then passed to the other side of the park, and stopped her taxi to be able to film the scene. “I saw a big hole and flames inside, right next to the children’s play area,” she said.
“It really is the center of our capital and it’s the park that I love,” she added. “That’s why I moved to Kyiv – it’s so dynamic.”
The playground attack, Amelina said, was adjacent to the Khanenko Museum, which contains paintings by Boucher, Rubens and Bellini, and ancient Iranian and Chinese artifacts.
But it’s also seconds from a children’s hospital.
Dmytro Olyzko and his eight-year-old daughter, Kamila, were visiting No. 6 Children’s Clinical Hospital when the missiles struck.
“Parents told me that all the children in the hospital come here to play,” he said. “If this had happened two hours later, the playground would have been full of children.”
A few kilometers away, Iryna Gorlach, who works for an NGO in the education sector, was awakened by another explosion near the station, not far from her apartment. By mid-morning, she was settled in her bathroom – the safest part of her apartment – drinking coffee and trying to get some work done, having decided not to attempt to reach the safe haven the next day. closer, the local metro station.
“In a way, it’s the same on February 24,” she said, referring to the first day of the war, when rockets also hit Kyiv. “And yet it’s not the first time for us, so it’s not quite the same.”
Also within earshot of the explosions near the station, which hit a business center, was Maria Glazunova, who works at the Dovzhenko Center film archive. She had, she said, had a “pretty normal” summer with “movie premieres, concerts, etc.” — even though the city’s curfew “had made us teenagers again — we were coming home around 11 p.m.”
By mid-morning Monday, however, she was busy recharging all her devices and power banks and refilling water bottles, just in case. “We are really angry because Shevchenko University now has broken windows, same for the museum. Between them, the children’s playground is destroyed – the place where my friends played when they were children. It’s pretty bad. But we just feel angry. Because it doesn’t make sense. Still, friends joke about the Kyiv Bridge – it seems to be more stable than the Crimean Bridge.
She had planned a series of short film premieres, which were to take place the following day. “If necessary,” she said, “we’ll just move them to a partner cinema that has an underground room. The show must continue.”
As extraordinary as the evidence of destruction was, how quickly Kyiv returned to normal life after the attack. At lunchtime, and less than 200 yards from the University Strike, a boy was doing tricks on his skateboard on the base of a sandbag statue outside the opera house. Shops and restaurants were reopening, people were walking their dogs in the park.
Residents of Kyiv, who survived weeks of Russian attacks early in the war, seemed largely out of step with the latest onslaught, singing songs in the subway stations where they hid, while cafe workers handed out drinks.
Oleksii Striapko, who works for an IT company, recently moved to Kyiv from Kharkiv as it seemed like a safe haven from missile attacks. “I lived in Kyiv for two peaceful months without explosions or deaths,” he said. “I was just getting used to living again, trying to make plans for the future. But Russia again destroys everything, kills, steals, terrorizes all Ukrainians without exception. Nevertheless, he added: “I understood today that I am no longer afraid, as I was at the beginning of the war. I know what to do and how to behave in a dangerous situation.
Tetiana Kononir, who lives nearby, was watching the cleanup of Shevchenko Park, which was already underway early Monday afternoon. “It’s terrible,” she said. ” I do not know what to say. Who can know what Putin thinks. I can’t even tell if he’s sick or if he’s trying to scare us or not.
“I don’t know what’s in his head, what’s in his heart… It just brings us together even more. He will never defeat us. He will never bring us to our knees.