Kostiantyn Zadorozhny: Old Cossack cities are staying on the way of the enemy invasion


From the editor: Kostiantyn Zadorozhny is an Associate professor with the Department of Environmental Engeneering of the Cities at the Kharkiv National University of Urban Economy. He lives in Kharkiv and is staying there since the first day of the war. We continue to publish Kostiantyn’s diary. First part is available here.

The diary entries refer to the first half of March when the Russian military partially controlled Northern, Eastern and Southern territories of Ukraine. Back then, Kostiantyn writes about fierce resistance of Sumy, Okhtyrka, Kharkiv and Izium. Now into the fourth month of the war, we see how different fate of these Cossack cities is. Sumy experienced enemy attacks literally during the first day of invasion. However, it was never captured. Okhtyrka – a town in 100 kilometres to the south from Sumy was heavily bombed and shelled but managed to stand against the invaders. Izium in the Kharkiv region was almost razed to the ground in the wake of hostilities and is still occupied. As for June, Ukrainian armed forces continue to push Russian military back from Kharkiv.

Translated from Ukrainian. Photo provided by the author

March 9

The 14th day of the war. Two weeks of hostilities. Minimum half of the Kharkiv residents left the city. Ukrainian railways evacuated 600 thousand people, a lot of city-dwellers left by cars and buses. Before the war, Kharkiv’s population was about 1,5 million. I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who organises evacuation and helps people. I would like to tell those who left that you have done everything right. The less population is left, the easier is to secure livelihood of the city. Even though our heroic utility services workers keep working under the fire, it’s hard to repair some infrastructure damages in these conditions.

I have paid attention to the four cities that now are being levelled to the ground: Sumy, Okhtyrka, Kharkiv, Izium. These are four Slobozhanshchyna cities that used to be bases for the Cossack regiments. The cities that were meant to protect the border. And they do protect it. Although the invader appeared to be from the other side. How strange the fate of these cities is – always to stay on the way of the enemy invasion.

It's so interesting to observe the reaction to the current events from the Russia population. The situation reminds me the 1937-1939’s USSR most. Yes, of course, there are people over there who condemn the war, but they are few. The majority of the population shows full endorsement. I looked through the letter of the Russian universities vice-chancellors (where they support the war), then read what certain scholars were responding to appeals by Ukrainian colleagues… I am lost for words. I understand that it’s not hard at all to brainwash an average worker. But what about the scholars, those who are supposed to develop some critical thinking… They should understand that it’s a lie, that there were no real reasons for invasion. Nope… full approval. There are few voices of dissent (and I am so grateful to these people). All other are not scholars any more. They are representatives of a colourless horde, that in 1948 destroyed genetics in favour of the party ideology. Long time ago I wrote a poem (for completely other reason). However, now it seems to reflect the state of Russian society very well.

Серый стих

Серая пыль на дорогах и лицах.
Серая пыль на усталых руках.
Серая пыль на дрожащих ресницах.
Серая пыль на молчащих губах.
Серая краска машин и заборов.
Серая краска бессмысленных фраз.
Серая краска зануднейших споров.
Серая краска бесчувственных глаз.
Серость на лицах и серость на душах.
Серость накрыла реальность и сон.
Серость на небе, в морях и на сушах.
Серость как саван забытых времен.
Серое прошлое серо уходит.
Серое нынче, серея, молчит.
Серое завтра на небе восходит.
Серая вечность над миром стоит.

March 11

16th day of the war. For the second day, it bangs very strong. Some Kharkiv areas (Northern Saltivka and others) are methodically transformed into rubble. They cannot capture the city. Therefore, they are shelling it out of spite. Or just in order to report to their commanders. Izium is also standing and they are exterminating its residents. If it’s not a genocide, what is genocide then?

Curiously, every two-three days a new pretext for invasion pops up! It seems that they cannot understand themselves why they came here… At first it was about the Nazis, but they failed to find them. Then it was because Ukraine was allegedly preparing attack on Crimea. Even Russian audience did not believe that nonsense. Then there were versions about nuclear weapon, chemical weapon, “dirty” bomb and eventually biological weapon! Well, I am not surprised that they lack elementary knowledge from the school biology classes. There even was a hint that coronavirus was created in Kharkiv and then sent to China. I don’t know what to say… The Kharkiv residents are more advanced even than Elon Mask. I suspect, that the next pretext for the invasion will be Godzilla that was cloned in the secret Kharkiv laboratories.

Surprisingly, people are buying it. Vast majority of their audience starts believing these lies. If one does not have a brain, it’s possible to download anything into one’s head from the TV set. Lack of logic does not bother them. Every morning, they are learning their opinion about the events from the TV set.

I start being frightened by my premonitions. I looked at my poem written almost eleven years ago and saw that it describes the pass of contemporary Russia. It is morally hard. However, it is not about us. It about them. About their future. They have chosen their future themselves.


Свет утра темень не развеял.
Врет путеводная звезда.
А там, где флаг надежды реял,
Идет дорога в никуда.
Она ухабиста и сера.
Петляет между старых пней.
Тут умирает в душах вера.
Поет здесь мертвый соловей.
А в спину ужас подгоняет.
Раскинул сети липкий страх.
Слова внезапно застывают
На холодеющих губах.
И на табличке у порога
В графе прибытий ― «никогда».
Застыла в вечности дорога
По направленью в никуда.

13 March

18th day of the war. Kharkiv is standing. It does not surrender. So does Chernihiv, Sumy, Kyiv, Mykolayiv, Okhtyrka, Izium… So does occupied but unconquered Kherson. So do all other cities, towns and villages of Ukraine. But Volnovakha does not exist any more… only ruins. Well, we will need to rebuild it after the victory from the scratch. We will rebuild it. We will. After everything we have borne, we will be able to do it. For sure!

They are shelling Kharkiv less. What if they fail to supply their troops with shells on time? It might be. It does not make our lives any easier though. Today a shell hit a queue to the drugstore. One person was killed, three – wounded. There is no safe place in Kharkiv left. The city is exposed to the enemy fire. Rocket launchers Smerch can cover all the city even from Russia’s territory. We are too close to the border. But is it safer in other cities? I doubt so… Even Ivano-Frankivsk, Lutsk, Lviv are in jeopardy…

“The second army in the world” continues to surprise the world. Commanders cheerfully report that their staff is transferred to “self-reliance mode”… They are legitimizing looting. 100-200 kilometres from the border and that’s it… the army cannot provide their soldiers even with food… Loot and rob, it’s the only way! Well, they are looting on the state level as well. In Enerhodar, they announced that the local nuclear power plant is Rosatoms’ property. I am lost for words… only direction of the Russian warship comes to mind.

This March is too heavy and too gloomy. 

Senast uppdaterad: 2022-04-11