Kherson region was occupied in the first days of the full-scale invasion. Russia has been unsuccessfully trying to create a picture of an ideal life in the artificially created ‘Russia’ Kherson for 4 months. However, patriotism and love to Ukraine among locals is unbreakable.

‘Bukvy’ talked to Natalia, a resident of Kakhovka, Kherson region.

Did the number of residents in the city decrease during the occupation?

Yes, it decreased significantly. The latest strikes on Kherson region provoked another wave of refugees. In the apartment block where our friend lives, people live only in 5 apartments out of 20 apartments. There are no people on the streets of the city after 4:00 p.m. You will hardly meet young people and children.

In which direction do people evacuate?

There are two of them. Towards the Ukraine-controlled territories or to Europe via Crimea. According to my observations, the majority still leave via Crimea. They choose this direction for various reasons. The main thing is that men can go abroad legally. However, their path through Russia is not easy at all… They still believe that it is safer to leave this way. Roads to Crimea are not fired upon by the occupiers.

Why do you think there are those who prefer to stay? You, for example.

People do not have enough money. The road in any direction is very expensive. Especially for those who do not have their own transport. The road from Kherson to Zaporizhzhya costs UAH 5,000, and through Crimea to Poland – about 20,000. Many people stay because of the property acquired over the years. Others stay because of age or elderly parents.

What about food? Are there any shortages?

Almost all stores have prices in hryvnias and rubles. This is a mandatory requirement of the Russian authorities. There are many products that are produced on our occupied lands and distributed there. Dairy products – from Melitopol, sausages – from Berdyansk, bread – from Nova Kakhovka and Beryslav. Oil and flour are still from Ukrainian producers. Household chemicals, candies and even eggs are brought to us from Russia.

What is the situation with pensions?

Pensions from Ukraine can be received only using bank cards, not cash. Of course, not all elderly people have them. The problem is that few stores continue to accept cards. I heard about the distribution of material aid from Russia in the amount of 10 thousand rubles. I am not sure that it is not fake.

What about medicines?

It is a big problem. people cannot get medical care and medicines. Some people try to get them via Crimea or volunteers.

The occupiers are giving Russian passports to Kherson residents now. Is it mandatory?

So far, it is not mandatory. However, I was told that either you get it or leave from here. Of course, we are not going to get a Russian passport and will delay this procedure to the maximum, hoping for the return of Ukraine.

Does the population come into contact with the military of the Russian Federation? Road checkpoints, checks of gadgets, cars and documents, how does it all work now?

Certain categories of people are forced to communicate with them. For example, everyone who runs their own business now has to redraw documents and cooperate with Russia, pay taxes, etc. Otherwise, the property belonging to the enterprise is confiscated. As for road checkpoints and inspections, there are many patrols. It is especially dangerous for young people.

What are the attitudes of the locals? Are there those who manage to live an ordinary life?

There are some collaborators, but the majority are very pro-Ukrainian. It is impossible to live as it was before. People can be detained everywhere if they show a pro-Ukrainian attitude. They are tortured…