After fleeing the bombing… Russians receive humanitarian aid in Belgorod
Irina Burlakova received humanitarian aid, including soap, detergents, tissues, toys and clothes for children, after she fled from the Russian town of Chepekino, on the border with Ukraine, after it was subjected to heavy Ukrainian bombing this week.
Thousands of Chepekino residents have taken refuge in Belgorod, the regional capital about 30 km to the northwest.
Volunteers organized themselves there to provide the arrivals with basic items. “Of course we are in a terrible state,” Burlakova said. But we hold on, we try to be strong, we have kids who make us want to live. But what will happen next? Of course we don’t know.
The 30-year-old left Chebekino with her husband and son. They live in the center of the city, which in recent days has been subjected to artillery shelling with unprecedented violence since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The authorities confirmed that the bombing resulted in at least 7 deaths in the area yesterday (Saturday) and the day before yesterday.
Irina received humanitarian aid at the “Center for Youth Initiatives” in Belgorod, which is run by the local authorities. Yesterday, dozens of displaced people and volunteers were busy searching through large boxes full of goods.
“We must realize that each of us may need help, we have to show a little kindness,” said Oleg Cherkachin, 37, a resident of Belgorod, after he came to donate goods to the displaced.
Victoria Kovaleva, a 26-year-old volunteer who helps collect and distribute humanitarian aid, said: “I want to help people who are going through a difficult situation, because we really suffer from a lack of outstretched hands.”
At the entrance to the center, a large Russian flag was hung, and a huge picture showing a masked Russian soldier drawn in the manner of cartoon characters, and behind him were written the phrases “Belgorod” and “Glory to the Air Defenses!”
For several months, the Belgorod region and its capital have been subjected to drone attacks, and bombing attributed to Ukraine, but the strikes were not as severe as they were in recent days.
And the Russian army confirmed (Thursday) that it had repulsed a Ukrainian attempt to “invade” the Belgorod region, a week after an incursion by armed elements that shocked and revealed loopholes in controlling the Russian borders.
In Belgorod, displaced people interviewed by the French Press Agency said they were satisfied with the care provided to them, and thanked the authorities.
Today, Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said that more than 4,000 people have been temporarily housed in emergency reception centers in the city.
The Sisters of Charity of the Marvo Mariinsky Monastery in Belgorod are providing the displaced with basic materials.
The monastery helped Ukrainian refugees who arrived in Russia during the first months of the conflict.
“We cannot stand by when our citizens, in turn, are forced to leave their homes,” said the nun responsible for distributing humanitarian aid in the monastery, Elena Khimchenko (44 years old), who covered her head with a white handkerchief with a red cross on it.
Pensioner Tatyana Kogilev, 64, fled from Chepekino after her apartment balcony was hit by shrapnel. While receiving aid at Marvo Mariinsky Monastery yesterday, she asked the agency who was responsible for what happened to her, and said: “Our city, Chepekino, was severely bombed,” comparing it to Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, which has been occupied by the Russian army and has been subjected to Ukrainian bombing since 2014.
‘There is little resentment,’ she added with a strange smile, ‘for our Belgorod it is painful that we are not defended. The most annoying thing is that we get beaten up, and we laugh.”