It was the first day since February 24 that I didn’t start my morning with the Khuiyoviy Kharkiv and Khuiyovе KTZ* Telegram channels because I had arrived there and finally saw everything with my own eyes. At home, KTZ (the Kharkiv Tank Plant) is where my dad lives.
He doesn’t often go to the bomb shelter, although it’s quite neat and in his own section’s entryway. It’s ventilated, it has drinking and non-potable water, it’s possible to get out even when there’s rubble, and there’s actually a table football game. It’s a real bomb shelter with walls that are half a meter deep. When dad was a boy, gas masks and instructions hung on the walls. Our building was a «stalinka,» built after WWII. Everybody was afraid of a nuclear strike back then.
The district also has a lot of «amerykanky,» apartment buildings similar to stalinkas but built before the war. People weren’t so scared then and so they have no shelters at all.
Our area also has «titanics,» sort of these long dormitories, and a water plant, and a very cool, huge house at #20 on vul. Myra.
At one point all the hotshots of the Kharkiv Tank Plant lived there. This building has two (!) archways, so I knew even as a kid that cooler people than us live there. Our building has only one archway.
KTZ also has some very old, funny-looking kindergartens, buildings that are nearly 100 years old each and you can see the experiments of the time through their windows. Instead of stairs between the floors, they have spiraling sloped ramps that take up enormous amounts of space but they do help keep little kids from getting hurt. The district also has a lot of tall towers—I thought all my life that they were water reservoirs—that turned out to belong to old boiler houses. You can also see a lot of ventillation «mushrooms» that are storerooms.
In the last 10 years, a number of changes have taken place: the boulevard and fountains were repaired, all the streets were renamed from things like «Second Fiver,» «XVII Party Congress» and «Frunze' to more contemporary names. A huge supermarket opened up, too. And the red tractor, the love of my childhood, was repainted and moved to the kids' park.
A shell hit that park and killed some people. My dad doesn’t read the news, so some neighbors, who happened to be driving by and saw the ambulances and covered bodies, told him about this. The neighbors rushed to our shelter because that particular day the entire district was being shelled, and things kept flying without stop.
Dad was already sitting in the bomb shelter, but half an hour earlier he found himself huddled on the stairs to the library (on the first floor of our building) because something huge flew into the neighboring building across the road where the dumpsters and garages are. He was just on his way home.
He says, «You can’t imagine that 2−3 seconds can be so long while you lie there and something’s hitting.» Afterwards the garages were on fire and the fire trucks showed up twice. Now the garages all flash with their new fancy roofs. All around everything is shot up and wrecked, but the roofs are tops.
These days, roofs like that are everywhere at KTZ, gleaming in the sun like idiots. You know, a year and a half ago, there was a fire on the roof of the building opposite mine in Kyiv and everything was burned. They tried to repair that roof for almost a year. People wrote petitions to Klitschko and that was that. In Kharkiv, the roofs were replaced lightning-fast. Dad says that the building services this year are like gods, doing things that you couldn’t even imagine. We’re bombed all the time but the power is on. The water’s working. And it’s clean everywhere.
You know, all this coziness in an old bedroomm community just glows: everywhere there are huge trees, bushes of all sizes, the grass is now tall, now mowed, you can see marigolds growing here and mallows growing there, everybody’s out with their doggies, and there are plenty of little squares to exercise in and benches to sit on. There’s just so much greenery that it seems like every step you take opens a new landscape before you.
This boundless immensity of KTZ always disturbed me, especially when I was small. You could never saw further than 10 meters before there’d be a tree, a bush, a playground, a drunk on the ground, or a flasher hiding. Everything was possible.
What I’m trying to say is that this district hasn’t changed since it was first built, so why the hell is that rascist horde pounding at it? No matter how old their maps are, they show that KTZ is a bedroom community. Old and decrepit, with its own jail, market and church, and with its useless renown.
When they renovated our boulevard with its park an fountains, they said that it was so that the trash from KTZ didn’t spread around the city. In the first years after I moved to Kyiv, whenver I met Kharkivites there and mentioned that I was from KTZ, guys aways responded with «Oh, I’ve been there and I got beaten up.»
So, it’s your ordinary bad neighborhood. So why are the empty broken eyes of the windows of the beautiful, really beautiful registry office staring at me? What did Music School #8 do wrong? Whom did one of the «titanics» fail to please? How are the park and the people in it at fault? Why did they blow up the veterinary clinic? They know that there’s no-thing the-ere, so why?
What’s more, today dad showed me a grave that I’d never seen in my life, not once, honest to God, although it’s right on the way to the market.
So, there’s a mass grave there and a little marble gravestone with names on it. Right in the courtyard. Dad says that when he was small, he once saw a man going past the yard who noticed the grave, suddenly stopped, saluted the grave, and walked on with a military step. But there was no one else around, so this man did this precisely for the dead soldiers. And my dad always remembered this moment of respect.
So, I wish with all my heart that every time someone sees the graves of those russians who illegally crossed the border of Ukraine since 2014, that they spit on their graves.
I wish that they would all die a wretched death. That all those who didn’t croak from explosions or bullets go back home missing arms or legs, that the parents are ashamed of their cripples and wish them a quick death rather than endless shame.
And that they all die in pain and poverty.
And when they die—I can believe in the hereafter, right?—, I hope that when they die, every night the Kozak-Kharakternyks** from Savur-Mohyla*** come to them and these Kharakternyks rip out their intestines and slowly wrap them around their embodied nails, put out their eyes, and carve them up into tiny pieces.
Every single night.
PS Sorry that there’s so much.
Thanks for reading it through.
Anna-Yevhenia, Kharkiv-Kyiv, August 6, 2022
Translator: Lidia Wolanskyj
* «Khuiyoviy» means «fucked up, useless.» KTZ refers to the Kharkiv Tank Plant.
** «Kozak-Khraakternyks» were considered clairvoyant healers.
*** Savur-Mohyla is an old Kozak gravesite that was taken over by the russian proxies after fierce battles in August 2014.