Desperate Residents of War-hit Bakhmut Refuse to Leave Scorched Ghost Town
Two people walk along a deserted street in the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut on February 1, 2023, unarmed people, who remain in the city despite the unfathomable artillery fire, shots and drones that fly over the sky. This city is the last stop on the war-wracked eastern front in Ukraine where western forces try to regain control from deadly Russian troops.
Despite the months of fighting, some of the city’s 7,000 inhabitants, mostly elderly, still remain, reluctant to leave their homes. Natalia Shevchenko, 75 years old, worries that escaping would be too expensive. During this time, she has been living in a basement, feeling ‘like a mole when she surfaces’.
Russian troops have made several advances in the region, since their invasion in February 24, 2022. Bakhmut, before the war home to 75,000 people, is now completely devastated: no electricity, no water, no gas. Devastation can be seen everywhere in the city – smacks ride in the air and the streets of Bakhmut are ridden with damaged cars and anti-tank defenses. Signs of bloodshed are all over, most notably on the snow-covered ground.
Nadiya Burdinska, 66, who has lived in Bakhmut all her life, has no plans of leaving. ‘Only a madman wouldn’t be afraid,’ she said. In order to keep warm and survive, she had to spend 3,500 UAH ($95) to buy a stove.
So, why these people stay in Bakhmut? After months of seclusion and brutality, this is where they call home. They remain here, even amidst the destruction and debris, in the face of heavy fighting. In the absence of basic amenities, they have become immune to the fear and duress, able to survive and cope to the aftermath of the war.