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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

Ukraine at War: Two families killed in a Russian attack in Kharkiv

Ukraine At War
Graphic by Jaylin Cho

Taking a psychoanalysis class this semester brought me to a frightening realization — most of the dreams that I remember upon waking up are war-related nightmares. The dreams have a repetitive plot that always revolves around the aftermath of Russian attacks: burned-down buildings and dying family members. On Feb. 10, when a Russian drone attack caused the fire that killed at least seven people in Kharkiv, that dream partially came true.

Like many Ukrainians, I have a habit of skimming the news on Telegram Messenger right after waking up, even in the middle of the night. It would be impossible to convey the astonishment I felt when the nightmare I was having that night transitioned into a real-world terror. Russian Shahed drones hit a gas station in the city, causing an oil leak that turned into fire, contaminating more than 10,000 square meters of territory around it. The fire flames spread to residential houses nearby, and although some people have been rescued, two families, one of them including three children, died. “The eldest son, Oleksii, was seven years old; the middle son, Mykhailo, was 4, and the youngest son, Pavlo, was seven months old. Children who had not yet seen life were killed by Russian lunacy. There was another family killed: a husband and wife,” wrote Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

Due to its proximity to Russia — Kharkiv is located about 25 miles from the Russian border — the city is a frequent target of Russian attacks. Russians can attack it with short-range ballistic missiles, in addition to regular missiles and drones, making it difficult for Ukrainian defenses to counter. The deadly attack on Feb. 10 is far from being the only incident in which civilians, including children, were killed. When I visited Kharkiv for the first time last summer, the city surprised me, not only because of its beautiful parks and convenient infrastructure, which are famed among Ukrainians but also due to the number of shelled buildings. Churches, governmental structures, universities and regular houses that managed to stay relatively intact often have cardboard instead of glass in the windows. There are many more that were damaged to the point when reconstruction is not possible.

In one of the parks, there is a monument devoted to children who were killed by Russia. It is surrounded by flowers, candles and an insane amount of plush toys. After visiting such sites and places of attacks that retain the smell of smoke for months, it is weird to hear that some people in the U.S. think that it is peaceful and safe in Ukraine now.

As much as I am used to mentally blocking out the emotional aspects of such events, allowing myself to only partially feel the pain, it is challenging to avoid thoughts about the possibility of the same tragedy affecting my family. Talking about it helps to some degree. At the very least, it reminds people that the war is still ongoing.