Russia-Ukraine

‘Total destruction’: On call, mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine, tells Mayor Wu how his city has soldiered on

"We do not have any other goal (but) to stay alive and to win."

The war in Ukraine

The bombs are falling on schools and hundreds of homes.

People in Kharkiv, Ukraine, are dying every day as the war waged by Russia shows no end in sight.

And Mayor Igor Terekhov is still soldiering on with his duties at City Hall, representing the residents of his country’s second-largest city.

About 400 of the city’s homes lack utilities. The city is directing people to shelters, and connecting all with heat, water, and food.

Even under Russian gunfire, waste management is continuing on, Terekhov said on Thursday, detailing the “total destruction” of Ukrainian cities in a video call with Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.

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“Today, Kharkiv is suffering and living in very, very difficult times,” Trekhov told Wu, via a translator.

The weight of the devastation is not unlike the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he said.

“A lot of victims (are) … children,” he said. “This is horrible.”

Terekhov’s call came soon after the latest round of talks between Ukrainian and Russian leaders failed to result in an end to the violence that has engulfed Ukraine over the last three weeks.

Russian forces have advanced on Kharkiv’s northern border. But Ukrainians, as is the case in other parts of the country, have mounted a fierce if not underestimated defense, staving off invasions there and in other major cities, like Kyiv, the capital.

Kharkiv, particuarly, has suffered shelling and heavy fire on residential districts in recent days.

Terekhov, in trying to describe the destruction, said 27 schools across the city have been destroyed, and many residents have been rendered homeless.

“We are trying our best and all every day (we are) supplying food,” he said through the translator. “We are supplying medicines to those people. We are giving all the assistance, like first aid, blankets, pillows … to sleep. And also it’s very difficult because we have a cold weather still. It’s minus today, and we’re suffering from this.”

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Kharkiv needs humanitarian aid, too, he said, especially heavy machinery and equipment to help the city clear its rubble and debris from bombs.

Terekhov said he wants Americans to understand what’s happening in Ukraine, and urged Boston’s congressional delegation to continue to keep pressure on Russia.

“This pressure could help us for finishing the war,” he said, adding that he believes support for Ukraine from major U.S. cities would be “a great prospect” toward doing so.

Wu vowed Boston’s deep support for Ukraine, and told Terekhov of the city’s marches and protests against the war and her administration’s ongoing work to organize relief and aid efforts.

“I cannot even put in words how much the residents of Boston stand with you,” she said.

“We have a strong Ukrainian community here in Boston,” Wu added, “and they will not let us rest until we do everything possible to be in support and to put that pressure wherever we can to stop this senseless, unconscionable war.”

Wu also marveled at Terekhov’s ability to make sure his residents continue to receive city services despite the circumstances. Terekhov, she noted, took office only five days before she did, last November.

How is Terekhov finding the strength to keep going, she asked.

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“We are all here like one big family. We are all together,” Terekhov said. “And we do not have any other goal (but) to stay alive and to win.”

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