A Christmas story experienced in Kharkiv, told by Libereco staff Ira Ganzhorn:

Kharkiv-Saltivka, 26.12.2022

We've been sitting together in Kharkiv since lunch. My great-aunt Valentina, her husband Boris and their son Jurii, my cousin. We are sitting in their two-room flat in the Saltivka neighbourhood.
Valentina and Boris have lived here for over 30 years. As a newly married couple, they moved into the flat, settled in, built their lives. They had two children. Made a career. Retired. Their whole life is contained in this flat, memories of well over 60 years together waft between the walls.

There are photo albums on the dining room table, carefully organised by decade. Over the past few hours, Valentina and Boris have guided me through the past, recounting anecdotes. Six decades in fast-forward, in a time-lapse, just for me.
While we dive through a sea of memories, a power cut brings us back to reality. Suddenly we are no longer at Valentina and Boris' summer dacha, surrounded by fruit trees, but in the middle of the war, less than 20 kilometres away from the Russian border. And the missiles could hit the living room at any time.
The air strikes are often preceded by power cuts, explains Boris. They have been living under constant bombardment since 24 February 2022. Plenty of time to get familiar with the rules of terrorism.

"It's as if I can feel the attacks in my bones," says my great-uncle. It is as if the nervous system has adjusted to the circumstances and warns us in advance. As soon as he finishes speaking, I hear the first explosion not too far away. A sound that I can't describe, but will always and everywhere recognise. A few seconds later, the air alarm sounds, along with the next impact – already much closer.

The air alarm doesn't go in time. The border is too close, the missiles too fast. The military says the missiles only need 30 seconds to fly from the border into our neighbourhood. No air defence system in the world can help here. The next impact comes, the window panes shake. We estimate the distance: There are perhaps 500 metres between us and the missiles on this Christmas Day.
My great-uncle Boris pours me a sip of cognac. "If they hit us, at least we'll die together," he says. We make a toast and don't even know on what exactly. To our reunion, to the end of the war, or to the fact that we would at least die together today?

Another sip of cognac, another explosion. The missiles are too fast and the nearest bomb shelter is too far away. My great-aunt and great-uncle are 86 years old, there's no way they can get down from the fifth floor quickly. Nor could I descend without them.
What feels like an eternity is actually less than two minutes. Five explosions, one glass of cognac. "Our new time counting," we joke. My great-aunt wipes away a tear. "You're still so young, your whole life should still be ahead of you." She is angry, she doesn't want me to risk my life for hers. I'm angry too, because I'm faced with this impossible choice and yet I've already chosen.
A sip of cognac to the fact that we weren't hit by a missile today.
A sip of cognac that if we had been hit, then we would have died together at least.

Hot meals for people around Kharkiv

Over 100,000 people in the Kharkiv region have no access to grocery stores. The supply of humanitarian aid is also limited, particularly on the outskirts. Due to the frequent power cuts, not only heating but also cooking is often difficult.

The soup kitchen project supported by Libereco prepares hot meals and distributes them to people on the outskirts of Kharkiv. In this way, our local partners ensure that even people without the option to cook have access to healthy, warm meals.

With a donation of EUR 3.50/CHF 3.50, you can provide a person with a substantial meal (soup, main course and salad). Thank you for your support!