Huliaipole. Where one man is an island

The third month of the “three-day special operation” of Russia’s eight-year war against Ukraine, which has lasted for almost four hundred years, continues. As part of their full-scale armed aggression, the Ruscists continue to carry out offensive operations in the eastern rayons of Zaporizhzhia region. 

We will tell in this publication how the inhabitants of Hulyaipilska city territorial community live, fight and win in the conditions of fierce hostilities.

 Makhnovska arc 

The enemy is actively attacking in the direction of Huliaipole and settlements of the rayon on the border with the Donetsk region. However, Ukrainian soldiers hold the line with dignity and striking back. The other day, on April 21, three enemy helicopters were shot down near Huliaipole. They were all beaten up by a Ukrainian soldier on his birthday, who had learned to use MPADS “IGLA”i the day before. The commander of the unit in which the hero is serving said that previously the military was on observation position in the trench, and just took and destroyed enemy helicopters. The Russians hoped that their helicopters would cover the strike columns during the assault on the positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. However, after enemy helicopters were shot down, a column of 15 tanks and 5 vehicles turned and retreated.

 “The helicopters were shot down. As a result, the column left. Without air support, they did not succeed”, – the commander confirmed.

Makhnovska arc

 And in the area of Polohy, Zaporizhzhia region, our long-range artillery fired on the Ruscists unit located in the direction of Huliaipole. It was there that a large number of enemy equipment and personnel of enemy forces were concentrated. 24 tanks and 10 armored personnel carriers were destroyed in the battle.

 “The invaders ran away like mice. They, therefore, have many dead and injured. We spread serious panic in the orc armies. Ossetians pray that it does not affect them. The panic is concrete”, – Ukrainian soldiers said. 

Soldiers call our military location Makhnovska arc, – proudly says Serhiy Yarmak, the head of Huliaipilska city territorial community. – Our spirit is fighting. The military men are holding the defense firmly on the line of contact, and we, in turn, are providing a reliable rear. 

With Father Makhno on the flags

 Huliaipole area is the territory of the former volnytsia i of father Makhno. Even children in the Zaporizhzhia region know this. Because we study our history and honor our heroes. And the world-famous Huliaipole native, anarchist Nestor Makhno – a prominent figure, rightfully has his place in the pantheon of our national heroes. He is the son of his land. Nestor Makhno is one of the many people from Huliaipole who, during the turbulent times of the revolution of the early twentieth century, did not want to obey the invaders. Thanks to his charisma, Father Makhno was able to inspire, lead and captivate fellow countrymen. With his parental attitude towards ordinary people, subordinates began to call their commander a Father.

 In the Huliaipole area, he created a viable republic of free peasants. And there were times when its borders reached the Katerinoslav region (now the Dnipropetrovsk region). And the organizational level of the state structure of that territory is evidenced by the fact that in its capital, the city of Huliaipole, there was even a theater and its theater troupe. By the way, Nestor Makhno not only attended his performances but, they say, he participated in several performances. 

Unfortunately, the theater building, located in the very center of the city, not far from the church, was destroyed during the civil war. However, the memory of this cultural institution has been preserved. And local intellectuals are even making certain plans to revive the theatrical art in the community.

 In Huliaipole, the house where little Nestor was born was not preserved. But local historians found a building that belonged to his relatives, and, as it turned out, Father Makhno often visited here. Until recently, his descendants lived in this house. A few years ago, the community allocated funds and bought this house from the owners to make here a museum of the family of a famous anarchist fellow countryman. Local historians began to collect exhibits here – things, furniture, which Nestor Makhno once used. This painstaking work was interrupted by the treacherous invasion of the Ruscists’ troops.

In the yard of the Memorial House-Museum of Nestor Makhno Family, Huliaipilska territorial community (September 2021, Author: Vladyslav Sodel)

But the building of the former local bank of German and Jewish colonists with several-meter walls located not far from the central square of the city has been preserved. They say that this bank was one of the most reliable in the entire Russian empire of that time. Now it houses the rayon museum of local lore. And here memos connected with Father Makhno are carefully kept. 

The fact that lands of Huliaipole has not run out of heroes to this day is evidenced by the events of the current liberation war for the independence of Ukraine. Today, Huliaipilska city territorial community, despite the devastation done here by the “Russian world”, has become a strong and insurmountable rock on the path of the Ruscist invaders, who are moving in a whole armada to the regional center – the city of Zaporizhzhia. 

Life goes on even under enemy fire

 On April 26, the Ruscists once again shelled Huliaipole from heavy artillery. As a result of the shelling, three people were injured. This was reported in the press service of the National Police of Zaporizhzhia region. So, as a result of the shelling, the houses of civilians were damaged. It should be noted that one of the shells fell directly on the territory of the playground. Now it is known about three wounded, one of them is a resident of Huliaipole. On the fact of a war crime, an investigator from the procedural leadership of the rayon prosecutor’s office initiated criminal proceedings under Part 1 of Art. 438 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine “Violation of the laws and customs of war”. 

From the shelling of Huliaipole, which the invaders carried out already on April 28, the houses of residents and civilian infrastructure were damaged. An elderly woman died from shrapnel wounds. 

These cruel shellings of the enemy do not stop even for a day. 

The head of Huliaipilska community, Serhiy Yarmak, said that since March 2, there has been no electricity in the city due to damage to the power supply network. Russians bombed cell towers. Therefore, for a while, the opportunity to communicate with mobile phones was missed, and it was impossible to use the Internet. Due to the destruction of the water supply, the supply of drinking water was disrupted.

 At present, it has been possible to establish the work of communal services in wartime conditions.

– Recently, we even began to take out household garbage from the residential sector, which, due to the intensification of shelling, had to stop doing it for a while, – Serhiy Yarmak notes the achievements of the community. – As for drinking water, in cooperation with volunteers and departments of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, we have established a system for the delivery and distribution of it to the districts of the city. We provide for everyone who needs it. 

The fact that life in the city is gradually getting better is also evidenced by the fact that the Center for the provision of social services has resumed its work. The local food market slowly has started working. It is still far from the former fair liveliness. And yes, it is a war. But there are sellers here, and there are buyers. People bring their fresh vegetables, preserves, as well as meat, and dairy products for sale.

– I have my cow, it gives enough milk, so I sell excess sour cream and cheese to people who need it, – the woman with sad eyes says. – The neighbors kept pigs and poultry. Because of the war, they had to let them go for meat. Something went for canned stew, I know that a lot of products were handed over to our guys at the front. And a lot of fresh meat has already been sold. 

Market prices are moderate. The people of Huliaipole try to support each other. The local market is currently one of the few profitable businesses operating in this front-line town. Many others were forced to stop their work. Therefore, according to the chief specialist of the department of urban planning, architecture, and local economic development of Huliaipilska city territorial community, Olha Savytska, at the moment there are no revenues to the local budget.

Life goes on even under enemy’s shelling

Cultural life and the educational process in community have been put on pause. The work of educational institutions was suspended on February 24. The museum is closed, and the exhibits are in storage.

– We have done everything to evacuate from the territory of the community to Zaporizhzhia everyone we can – women and children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Someone was evacuated by our school buses, and someone on their vehicles, – Olha noted. – I had to evacuate with two minor children, and now I work in the interests of community remotely. And only those who did not consider it necessary to leave, or were physically unable to do so, remained in Huliaipole. But we did not leave our people alone with their problems. Our head Serhiy Yarmak actively cooperates with volunteers. The territory receives humanitarian aid from the regional center. Food parcels are distributed to people on the spot. Who needs drugs, in particular, all insulin-dependent residents of the community receive drugs free of charge. Our hospital provides the necessary medical care. In difficult cases, we provide transportation for people to the regional center. We are working to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.

 The head of the community Serhiy Yarmak confirmed that almost every day community school buses run between Huliaipole and Zaporizhzhia. People are taken to safe territory, and humanitarian aid is delivered from Zaporizhzhia. It is provided by the regional military administration, the Red Cross, and religious communities, and simply not indifferent people. Assistance is also sent by other territorial communities, with which Huliaipilska community maintains close ties and cooperates since pre-war times. 

– The city was seriously damaged from the Russian bombing, – shared Serhiy Yarmak. “We started recording the facts. To date, only in the Spartak, one of the city districts, 120 damaged residential buildings have been recorded. And in general, there are already more than 500 of them in the city – both private sector buildings and multi-apartment residential buildings. Many public and administrative buildings were also damaged. More is a pity for the recently thorough repaired kindergarten. Also, before the escalation of the war, we began to reconstruct the school. The work has already been completed by 70-80 percent. Now there is no roof. And the enemy shell hit the foundation. There are also destructions on the administrative buildings of the City Council and the Rayon Council. In the Center for administrative services, windows and doors flew out from the blast wave. However, we are already thinking about how to restore the infrastructure. We plan to raise funds from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. 

The fact that the city will not be left adrift is also evidenced by the fact that it is carefully guarded by law enforcement officers and defenders. The streets are patrolled by community guards – the police, community police officers, and territorial defense. Cases of looting are immediately stopped on the spot. Serhiy Yarmak recalled how people recently punished such an offender – they tied him to a pole in the middle of the city. And then they handed him over to the police.

– We are all here – as one whole – the citizens, law enforcement officers, and the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Everyone does their job and together we are indestructible and invincible. The enemy will not pass by Huliaipole so easily. We will stop him. I believe that it is from the Makhnovska arc that the shameful path of the Russian invaders to retreat will begin, and for us – to VICTORY, – Serhiy Yarmak is convinced.

Author: Natalia Zvorygina