Kharkiv was one of the first cities to come under attack by Russian missiles during the war. The city has been under constant artillery shelling, air raids and other weapons fire all this time. Many buildings have been damaged, most of them are high-rise residential buildings in the city’s residential districts. In addition, the city’s infrastructure – heating and gas, water and electricity – is being damaged by shelling. Other buildings in the city are also significantly damaged, in particular the so-called critical infrastructure, educational institutions and hospitals, local government buildings, etc.
Despite this military atmosphere, as well as constant shelling, Kharkiv continues to hold on and maintain its livelihood. The city’s utilities services work hard to deal with the restoration of water, electricity and gas supply; garbage removal and recycling; assistance in the removal of debris; maintaining cleanliness in the streets and avenues of the city; bring order in city parks, squares, recreation centers; prepare the city’s green areas for spring: plant flowers, prune trees, etc. In the Ukrainian media you can see the information that Kharkiv communal services actively clean the city. A huge number of Kharkiv citizens, who just pass by, offer their help and work next to the communal services. That is, the city demonstrates high social cohesion during the war, actively helping each other.
Some of the utilities and institutions also continue to work to help the residents of the city. In particular, the “City Dairy Factory – Children’s Food Kitchen” continues to work, providing children with dairy products and baby food. The logistic hubs (in each area of the city) for reception and distribution of the humanitarian aid which comes to Kharkiv from other regions of Ukraine and abroad have been organized. Such hubs are managed by the “Kharkiv humanitarian aid logistic center”. The communal institution “Kharkiv subway” has turned into a bomb shelter, which is used by many residents of the city to hide from constant shelling. Community hospitals and local emergency outpatient clinics continue to operate in the city.
In addition, according to the decision of the city council, all city residents are exempted from paying utility bills for the duration of the war. Also, since the first days of the war, Kharkiv city authorities organized assistance to city residents who are hiding in the subway from the constant bombardment. Such assistance includes food packages, hot meals, medicines, delivery of drinking water and basic necessities. The initiative is joined by representatives of small and medium-sized businesses in Kharkiv: catering establishments, factories and plants, etc.
We also want to tell you about our partners, the organization “Green for you”, which is engaged in the cultivation of micrograss. From the first days of the war they are actively helping people in Kharkov and other cities in the “hot spots”, organizing volunteer help for those in need, providing fresh herbs to all comers. We would like to add that the cultivation of microgreens continues not far from the city, in spite of constant bombardments and overall difficult situation in Kharkiv. “Green for you” organizes new logistical chains and prepares like-minded people around us for joint interaction and cooperation.
Another area of our activity is informal research on how Kharkiv is adapting to wartime conditions; how food and food systems are being organized and modified in the city; how the volunteer movement is being organized; what is the humanitarian and food situation in the city and the region. In particular, there is an emphasis on the humanitarian situation, monitoring of the sowing campaign, analysis of information in the media (local and national) and official sources – local and regional authorities (city council, regional administration, regional council). We also continue to maintain contacts with Living Lab participants – pupils of two Kharkiv schools and their parents.
Also, as a result of the war, some participants in the Kharkiv research team of the project were forced to go abroad. In particular, Associate Professor Olga Filippova is in Finland, where she constantly communicates with representatives of the Finnish media, reporting on the situation in Kharkiv and Ukraine. She is also involved in educational and research activities of the university. Another member of our group – docent Olexandra Deineko – is staying in Norway at our colleagues from NIBR, where she also actively spreads information about the war in Ukraine, joins in the analysis of the situation, conducts research and gives lectures for local students and researchers about social cohesion of Ukrainians during the war.
In addition, other members of the project who remained in Ukraine continue their work in Kharkiv, Poltava, Ivano-Frankivsk and Dnipro led by Olena Muradyan. In particular, they fill pages in social networks with information about situation in Kharkiv, organize volunteer help for students and staff of our university, city and region residents, support research collaboration with our partners, conduct situation monitoring and local research on transformation of food systems in Kharkiv and the region. Regarding the volunteer help from the Fusilli team, it should be noted that since the first days of the war Kharkiv citizens began to face the problem of food shortage.
In particular it concerned the students and workers of our university, who lived in the dormitories. The students did not write about the need for humanitarian aid at the very beginning. However, after we provided the information that we were ready to help in any possible way, students began actively contact us. Students needed help for several reasons: lack of financial resources, fear of coming out of hidings and bomb shelters, and lack of stores around or lack of supplies in stores. We created an online-document where students wrote their addresses and needs. The students’ main needs were food and medicine.
The search for food in the first stages was independent, we stood in queues and packed bags of what was needed for the students, we turned to the volunteer network in Kharkiv and to our partners. The organization of the search for medicines was similar, every day we went to pharmacies in search of the list of medicines, sometimes we managed to find several medicines a day, sometimes we didn’t find any, but in a week we could find at least half of what was needed. It is important to note that medications could only be found in neighboring cities, so the search was done by those who left Kharkiv.
After what was needed was found – it had to be sent to the address of the students. Cab services, which had been operating since the first day of the war, were a lot of help. However, because of the danger and congestion, sometimes you had to search for a car for hours, sometimes they were not available at all, and when they were, the cost of the trip often exceeded the cost of food, medicine and, in general, equaled the price of a trip to a neighboring city before the war. But after a few weeks the frenzy subsided, the cost became tolerable, and waiting times decreased significantly. However, most help was needed precisely in the first weeks, so we had to spend days looking for a car. In some areas drivers refused to go for any amount of money because of the danger and we had to wait several days for the shelling to stop.
During the first month of the war we managed to establish a system for delivering and receiving humanitarian aid, so now it is much easier to organize aid. And though the majority of students have already left Kharkiv, there are still people who need help, for example, faculty staff who are staying in Kharkiv.
In addition to helping students, since the second week of the war, the participants of the project established food supplies in several districts of the Kharkiv region, and later became possible departures to Kharkiv.
Food supplies of the first necessities (bread, flour and cereals) were from Pervomaisky (Kharkiv region). Now our volunteers work with food bases of Poltava and Dnipropetrovsk regions. In addition to products, also purchased means of personal hygiene and household chemicals.
At the moment, food logistics in the region is no longer an acute problem, gradually begun to work stores and the situation with food is somewhat stabilized, but our volunteers, as before, provide assistance to those who need it most – older people, families with small children and internally displaced persons. The main volunteer work is focused on the collection and formulation of medicines lists. Available medicines are purchased in the neighboring regions, because, unfortunately, the supply of medicines in the Kharkiv region is almost stopped. Medicines that are not available in Ukraine due to war (first of all, L-thyroxine and eutirox) are purchased abroad by small parties in private or through the NGOs providing assistance.
Today our volunteers continue to do everything possible to provide people who suffered from the war with all the necessary food, medicine, and even the search for housing in the region.
The Ukrainian team of the Fusilli Project continues to work even under the war conditions. We believe in the victory of Ukraine!