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How does the frontline town of Ochakiv live

Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, Ochakiv in the Mykolaiv region has been subjected to Russian shelling almost every day. Most buildings in the former resort destination have been destroyed or damaged. Despite the constant danger, about 8,000 residents remain here as of December 2023.

On February 24, 2022, the city suffered several powerful missile attacks. Even as Russian forces retreated to the left bank of the Dnipro River in November 2022, Ochakiv remained one of the most dangerous settlements in the region. The town is located just 10 kilometers from the only area of the Mykolaiv region that remains temporarily occupied – the Kinburn Spit reserve, where the Russians have deployed military equipment.

“Russian long-range artillery, large-caliber mortars, Kalibr cruise missiles, cluster munitions, air-to-ground missiles, and phosphorus munitions are attacking Ochakiv. All the weapons the Russian army has has been used in the shelling of Ochakiv,” says Oleksiі Vaskov, deputy mayor of Ochakiv.

Damaged car after the shelling of Ochakiv. September 20, 2023.
Photo: The State Emergency Service of Ukraine

On January 9, 2023, the community suffered tremendous destruction. The Russians hit an anti-ship mine depot from World War II. The blast wave affected hundreds of houses, administrative buildings, and social institutions.

“Officially, there are about 7,900 damaged houses. This is not the final number, as people continue to file reports and record these damages. Windows, roofs, doors – it was almost completely demolished,” said Vaskov. 

Currently, more than 70% of the buildings in the city are damaged. The Russians do not spare social and humanitarian facilities.

Vitaliі Kim, the Нead of the Mykolaiv Regional Military Administration, said that the humanitarian situation in Ochakiv remains stable despite the shelling.

“There are issues with safety and jobs. Ochakiv is a resort area. It has always been financially fueled in the summer for the whole year. And now it is impossible to do this for the second year in a row. That causes problems. As for the security situation, shelters are being built there. I will not disclose more details. But Ochakiv is such a bright representative of the Mykolaiv region that fights against all odds,” Kim said.

Even though the city is under constant fire, utility services are working and trying to restore the damaged buildings. They have the most necessary building materials, such as corrugated board, slate, and film.

Most shops have wooden slabs instead of windows and display cases. November, 2023.
Photo: NikCenter

Before Russia launched the full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022, Ochakiv had about 16,000 residents. Now, half as many are left in the town. Mostly, pensioners refused to leave, but there were also young people and children.

“My house, my home, my city of Ochakiv, where I was born. This is what keeps me here. My husband’s and my parents’ grave is here; where would I go?” says Svitlana, a resident of Ochakiv, in a commentary for Channel 5.

The Kinburn Spit

Kinburn Spit before the full-scale war.
Photo: Ukraїner

The Kinburn Spit, just across the strait from Ochakiv, was occupied by Russian forces in the spring of 2022. Before the full-scale war, this landscape park was famous for its rare birds and sandy plains. Along with Ochakiv, the place was a popular seaside destination for Ukrainians.

“At the moment, you can still hear birds’ voices from the slopes of Ochakiv, and the sea looks calm and endless. But this is a deceptive feeling. These places will not soon be the same as we used to see and love them,” says journalist Natalia Nagorna.

Despite the daily explosions, the locals believed in Ukrainian victory and dreamed of their peaceful life before the Russian invasion.