Residents in Avdiivka, Ukraine Go Underground as Russia’s Assault on East Ramps Up

“They are constantly hitting apartment blocks,” he said.

The central hospital in Avdiivka has been newly renovated, but it had no power on Wednesday and water for drinking is available only from a large blue cistern in the lobby. It is operating with a skeleton crew of 40 people. The medical director and Dr. Orlov, the surgeon, have been living on the premises for more than a month.

“If I go home I may not be able to return,” said Dr. Orlov. “I may come under fire along the way.”

His colleague, Vitaliy Sytnik, the medical director, said there would have been far more injuries had residents not adopted the habit of spending much of their time in basements.

A dank storage space lit by a single candle is where Valentina Mutyeva, 72, has spent much of the last month, along with 10 other people, including her daughter and two grandsons. Though the younger people often travel up to the surface, where much of the cooking is done on a wood-fired stove in the courtyard, Ms. Mutyeva said she spends most of her days below ground.

“You go up just for five minutes and they start to shell,” she said “And at night they shell.”

While she said she laments the comforts of home, what really concerns her is the effect the war has had on the town’s children. She pointed to one of her grandsons, Sasha, a slight blond boy of 15, who she said has been deeply scarred by the fighting that has raged for much of his life.

“He started to walk around at night and talk to himself, because of this war,” she said through tears. “Children of the underground. It’s so brutal.”

In another part of town, a rocket blast that rattled the walls of a basement housing about 30 people somehow didn’t faze a 6-year-old girl named Varvara, who sat drawing at a little table. When she was finished she showed a reporter a picture of a green alien she had drawn, with a vacant black eye that she said was for seeing the future. She happily announced that the alien had told her the reporter would live forever.

“What about the war, when will it end?’’ she was asked.

“That, he cannot see,” she said.


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