Anti-aircraft alarms sound in the center of Kharkov. It is a piercing sound, unable to ignore. In case someone hasn't burst their eardrum, it is followed by an alert to all connected mobiles in the area. But residents of Ukraine's second largest city don't seem fazed. “At the beginning of the invasion we ran out and sought refuge in bunkers and basements. But, now, we have learned that it does not make much sense to do so. If it is written and a missile falls on you, then there is little you can do. But you can't live in fear for that long, and the sirens go off many times throughout the day," says Ivanka, who continues to walk her dog through Shevchenko Park.
A few dozen meters away is the clearest example of what happens when the alert is justified: it is the City Hall building, turned into a hollow shell since a missile hit one of the sides. The facades are still standing despite the hole it caused, but the interior is devastated. And the same happens with numerous buildings in the nearby streets.
When the sirens are followed by the sounds of not-so-distant detonations, diners at the Georgian restaurant Toy Samyy Baranets seem to have no intention of moving either. Not even when the lights flicker with every pop. In the establishment the music is cut and a waitress dressed in the typical Georgian costume goes table by table warning customers that they have to go down to the building's bunker until the alarm is canceled, but only a few move. The rest carry on as if nothing is happening, and several men at a table even confront the young female employee. “You have no authority to ask us to leave!” one of her snaps at him before she walks off with her head down.
Ivan also does not raise his beach bar in the desolate Plaza de la Libertad. He has a small trailer that he has turned into a mobile cafeteria, but he is not going to move it because of the Russian bombs. “If they kill us, then bad luck. But resisting is also leading a normal life. They want to intimidate us, that's why they bomb especially at night. If they don't, it's a victory for us », he comments as he prepares a cappuccino to go. Of course, he recognizes that there are not many clients. “With most shops closed and a large part of the population in refuge, business is not doing very well,” he says.
Luckier are the few supermarkets that remain open. The ATB one near University Hill is protected by sandbags and wooden window panes, but it brings the neighbors to life. «For people to be encouraged to return there must be services. Otherwise, they can't do anything," says one of the cashiers. Many of his customers stand in line with AK-47s on their shoulders, an image that has now become commonplace in the eastern part of the country. “The military and the territorial defense forces now maintain the economy, but I hope that soon we will be surprised again if we see someone with a rifle and camouflage clothing making the purchase,” concludes the employee as soon as he fires a military man who has bought coca -Cola and a generous number of energy drinks.