The wheat is sown for the coming season, but no one in Yakovlivka, a small farming village outside of Kharkiv in north-eastern Ukraine, knows if it will be harvested.
a week after Russian forces launched their invasion on February 24, the village was bombed. The head of the village administration said four people were killed and 11, including children, injured in the attack.
“We sat in our basement for four hours and read the Lord’s Prayer. We wrapped the children in blankets and couldn’t go to sleep until three or four in the morning,” says Nina Bonderenko, who works on her cousin’s farm.
Villagers said the attack may have targeted a unit of Ukrainian soldiers temporarily camped at the village school, although the building was undamaged from the blasts apart from some broken windows.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the villagers’ account of the bombing.
Russia has denied attacking civilians as part of a so-called “special operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” its neighbor. Ukraine and its allies dismiss this as a baseless pretext for war.
Since the village was bombed, residents say all certainty has been lost.
“We planted all the wheat. But can we grow and harvest anything under the current circumstances?” said Vadim Aleksandrovich, director of “Granary of Sloboda” – an agricultural enterprise that arose from a former Soviet-era collective farm.
“God only knows. We’re doing our best.”
With the country at war, the insecurity Yakovlivka faces is shared across the country by the farmers who produce the grain that has historically made Ukraine, the world’s fifth-largest wheat exporter, one of the world’s great grain baskets has made.
DANGER IN THE FIELDS
Last season, the harvest of the Sloboda granary was 3,000 tons of wheat, 3,000 tons of sunflowers and 1,000 tons of corn. But right now, 80 percent of the company’s 7,000 hectares are inaccessible because of mines or hostilities, Aleksandrovich said.
Only the fields immediately around the village of Yakovlikva can be reached with relative safety, and there is fierce fighting around the company’s seed storage facility at its site in Izyum, some 140 km (85 miles) away, he said.
Before farm workers can go to the fields, they call emergency services to find out if the area is safe. When missiles land in the fields, explosives disposal services remove all missiles.
“The situation is very tense and it is unclear what will happen to us,” Aleksandrovich said. “We don’t even know what’s going to happen in an hour.”
Despite the uncertainty, most villagers have stayed, refusing to join a national exodus that has seen around a quarter of the country’s 44 million people fled their homes.
Of 533 permanent residents before the war, 380 remain, with refugees from outside bringing the population up to 436, according to local authorities.
although The village shop has closed, people have started to mend the damaged houses that can still be repaired.
“I thought I could spend my last days in peace and then this,” said 66-year-old Vera Babenko, pulling a bowl from under a pile of debris next to her now-doorless refrigerator.
She said a bomb landed right next to her house, about 200 meters (yards) from the school, which the attack appeared to be targeting, but she said she had no plans to leave.
“I want to remodel my kitchen.”
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/news/farming-news/pictures-inside-a-ukrainian-village-where-farmers-stay-for-the-wheat-harvest-but-fear-russian-attack-41541309.html Pictures: In a Ukrainian village where farmers stay to harvest wheat but fear a Russian attack