Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, 2022 and the city of Kharkiv was one of the first to suffer a blow. Every day there are bombings and shellings of our city, which creates a difficult humanitarian situation in the city – these include critical problems with food policy, food systems and a humanitarian aid network for both the citizens and the military.

However, recently we have managed to establish various options to support the food system of our city.  First, it is international humanitarian aid that comes to the city from European countries across the country (mostly by railway). Such humanitarian aid also includes food, hygiene products, medicines and basic necessities. Second, humanitarian aid coming to Kharkiv from other cities and regions of Ukraine. Third, it is the efforts of local authorities (city council, regional state administration) to establish supply systems: water supply, food and groceries, medicines and others. Fourth, the initiative of local entrepreneurs and volunteers, in particular, restaurants and cafes: preparing lunches for servicemen, food kits for hospitals, orphanages, city residents affected by shelling and bombing, is building logistics.

Recent practices are an example of the social cohesion of different social groups (entrepreneurs, employees, volunteers, producers, city authorities, etc.) that form local and mobile food systems that have their own chain: (1) obtaining raw materials, (2) involving volunteers and everyone who willing to help, (3) cooking, (4) the formation of food kits, (5) distribution by the city with the help of volunteers and city authorities.  Such an initiative is widespread in the city today;  it applies not only to individual local catering establishments, but also to fairly large networks. Such cooperation forms an autonomous food system, which is focused on humanitarian support of the city’s residents during the war.

In addition, the work of the city’s public utilities for garbage collection continues (in that parts of the city where there is no artillery shelling in the moment). Every day, Kharkiv’s municipal service is helping to dismantle the rubble of houses after shelling and destruction, clear the streets, collect and remove garbage etc.  Of course, it happens that they are forced to work under fire. Volunteers who deliver food and groceries are also working under fire (especially important is the delivery of cooked food to those areas where, due to shelling and destruction, residents were left without electricity and water).

In addition to fixed dispensaries throughout the city, there are also separate destinations that are fully covered by volunteers and concerned residents. As a rule, the delivery of the necessary humanitarian aid also takes place under fire and total risks.

Despite the difficult and tense situation, Kharkiv remains an example of strength and steadfastness.


Author and pictures by:

Olena Muradyan

Head of the KKU FUSILLI team,

Dean of the School of Sociology,

V.N.Karazin Kharkiv National University,

Kharkiv, Ukraine