Rare trip for bread saves pensioners’ lives in Bakhmut

Rare trip for bread saves pensioners’ lives in Bakhmut


It was a rare outing for Lioudmila Kharchenko as she left her apartment in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut in search of bread on Saturday morning.

But when she returned an hour later, she found her house destroyed and a rocket head at the foot of her velvet sofa in the living room.

The 63-year-old rarely goes outside after finding herself in the middle of a terrifying battle that is tearing the small town apart. But that day, she’d prepared for the trip with a bit of lipstick and brought her shopping bags.

Daily confrontation between Ukrainian and Russian troops and artillery fire since early August is one of the longest active battles for a Ukrainian city or town since the beginning of the war.

“I got a call that bread was being distributed there. I went there,” says the pensioner.

Upon arrival, her neighbors informed Kharchenko that her building had been hit.

“I ran to the house hoping they were wrong. But I went and saw the disaster,” she adds, aware that the trip saved her life.

Beside a small wooden chest of drawers miraculously intact in her hallway, including a purple flower still in the vase, Kharchenko cups her hand to her mouth and chokes back a sob.

Firefighters arrived around 11:00 am, 20 minutes after the rocket hit, and put out the fire that had blackened the small two-room apartment on the ninth and top floor of the north Bakhmut building.

– ‘Blood Paid’ –

Once the smoke clears through the hole left in the building by the rocket, there is a clear view of the blue sky.

On the burnt carpet rests the more than five foot long and camouflage green Smerch missile head.

Another cylinder of the same size, which could have come from a multiple rocket launcher, stands upright at the far end of the living room.

A firefighter sprays water on the gun before carrying the metal tube at arm’s length.

The blast also ripped the pensioner’s frames off the walls. A picture of Kharchenko and her husband in a gold frame fell and landed just above the rocket.

Charchenko takes a few steps into the room and raises his tear-stained eyes to the hole in the ceiling and the torn roof.

“This apartment was paid for with blood and sweat,” Kharchenko says, before pulling herself together and gathering up some of her belongings to take with her to stay at her son’s house in another Bakhmut neighborhood.

“Thank you for putting out the fire, don’t bother with the debris, I’ll do it myself,” she says.

Despite daily fighting and artillery fire, nearly half of Bakhmut’s 70,000 residents refused to leave, according to local officials.

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