26 March 2023
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“Russians take food from people, drive them out of their homes. We are being shelled by artillery and bombed by aviation daily.” Interview with the mayor of Huliaipole


Serhii Yarmak assures that the people of the Huliaipole municipality in Zaporizhia will fiercely defend the city and fight no worse than Nestor Makhno’s army crushing Muscovites a hundred years ago.

Text by: Dmytro Syniak

From 1919 to 1921, Huliaipole was the capital of the so-called Free Territory, a state entity governed by councils and communes. This is the birthplace of Nestor Makhno, Commander-In-Chief of the Revolutionary Insurgent Army of Ukraine, which at its heyday numbered more than 120,000 soldiers. Serhii Yarmak, head of the Huliaipole municipality, believes that it is the hot blood of the people here as well as the historical memory of the glorious past that prevent them from evacuating. Our conversation with Mr. Yarmak began with his surprise. “How did you manage to reach me by phone?” he asked. “We haven’t had any signal for days!”

What is the situation in the city?

For more than two months now, there has been no electricity or running water in Huliaipole, and only a few households have gas. All our utility networks were damaged by enemy shells, including the high-voltage transmission line between Polohy and Huliaipole. Repairmen restore what they can, and everything else is postponed until victory. We provide people with water by supplying electricity from our generators to several of our wells. Then the employees of the Huliaipole Utility Company, in cooperation with the State Emergency Service, deliver this water to the residents. We also charge our mobile phones from generators. There is almost no signal in the city, so hardly anyone can reach us. The situation with the Internet is even worse. As the occupiers bombed Ukrainian refineries, we now have some problems with fuel. But the Zaporizhia Military Administration does not spare us fuel, and we are very grateful for that. Despite everything, we restarted garbage collection during the last week. That is, we try to put our municipality in order with the help of the employees we have left. And I am infinitely grateful to the public utility workers, the State Emergency Service, the police, our doctors, as well as ordinary citizens who come to unload humanitarian aid. We are all basically working under fire. But together we manage to keep everything running.

Destroyed houses in Huliaipole

Is it possible to evacuate residents of the municipality?

Every day, we evacuate people to Zaporizhia from a certain location in the city, and everyone can leave. Buses come to us, usually full of humanitarian aid, and they leave full of people. By the way, many thanks to the volunteers for their work. They regularly bring us medicines and essentials… I would like only Territorial Defence units to remain in the city. But many locals have the hot blood of the Makhnovist ancestors in their veins: they do not wish to retreat, and everyone is working to strengthen our defences in one way or another. We had almost no pro-Russian sentiments before, and now there are none.

People are hiding from the shelling in Huliaipole. Photo by: Victoria Roshchyna/hromadske

What can you say about the fighting around Huliaipole?

The nature of the war has changed. No more huge convoys of frightened Russian soldiers who have no idea where they are. Instead, we are being shelled by artillery and bombed by aviation daily. Thank God, the Armed Forces of Ukraine are excellent in their job. I never knew that our Armed Forces were so professional! Now I tell everyone, “I love my wife, children, parents and the Armed Forces!” And all the people of our municipality feel the same. They bring soldiers food, warm clothes and everything else. After all, everyone understands that we are now at the forefront of our defence, and it depends on our army whether the Russian orcs will seize our apartments and houses.

Related articles: Huliaipole: free city. The birthplace of Nestor Makhno thwarts Russia’s military plans

How much damage did the Huliaipole municipality suffer?

Russian orcs are systematically shelling our neighbourhoods. We estimated that in one of the districts of the city alone, about 120(!) houses have been damaged. There are various degrees of damage: some buildings have no windows, while some are without a roof. In addition, several villages of the municipality are occupied. We know that the Russians take food from people there, drive them out of their homes and kill their cattle. But since there is no phone signal and we are separated by a front line, I cannot say anything more about these villages. In Huliaipole itself, three schools were bombed. These were state-of-art, fully European schools. One of them was destroyed just the other day. To what end? Why? How was it in anybody’s way? To overhaul this school, we spent UAH 49 million under a grant from the European Investment Bank. The renovation was to be completed in the summer so that the children could sit at their desks on September 1. Russian shells also damaged a wonderful kindergarten, repaired using UAH 13 million allocated by the same European Investment Bank. What terrible savagery, shelling the kindergarten with heavy artillery!

Consequences of the shelling in Huliaipole. Photo by: Victoria Roshchyna/hromadske

What do Russian relatives of the residents say about the situation in Huliaipole?

Almost no one speaks to them anymore. Personally, I don’t need relatives who support the horrors that are happening in our country. Although there are some exceptions: I know a family whose Russian relatives constantly send money, thus helping to survive. And, of course, these people are against Putler’s invasion.

Is Huliaipole standing strong?

Let those bastards know: they can’t get to Huliaipole! Our Territorial Defence is strong, well-equipped with modern weapons and well-trained. And the whole of Ukraine, for that matter! We will win. There is no other answer!



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