War leaves Ukraine farming village queueing for food

LEBYAZHE: Ukraine’s farmland is famous for its rich black soil and is considered the world’s loaf of bread, but Thursday, after months of war, residents of a front-line farming village had to line up to buy food.
The Russian invasion force that crossed the border on February 24th is not a few Lebyazhelike Ukrainians The army scrambled to defend the route to the country’s second city, Kharkiv.
But the quiet rural community, sometimes under shelling, found itself caught up in the conflict that followed, until this month’s flashy Ukrainian counterattack drove the aggressor back.
“It’s terrible, terrible. I can’t even describe it,” said the 75-year-old Galina Mykhailivnalying crouched while waiting for rations in front of the village cultural center with a hole in the facade.
“It’s tragic, they destroyed the whole village,” she declared, exaggerating in her grief as most of the houses still stood, despite signs of war everywhere.
“It used to be good, now it’s gone,” she said.
As the people gathered, a truck mounted with multiple rocket launchers of the Ukrainian army rumbled through the narrow alleys of the village, while artillery explosions continued.
Six months without electricity
Ominously, Lebyazhe lies downstream from a major dam on the Siversky Donets River damaged this week by a Russian missile, amid signs Moscow is targeting civilian infrastructure.
Its hinterland boasts vast fields of sunflowers – a global source of cooking oil – and village homes often raise productive hordes of vegetables, goats and ducks.
But on Thursday, community leaders Olexander Nesmiyan – the tallest man in the village – is overseeing the distribution of food packages.
Each box, decorated with the symbol of UN World Food Programcontains 12 kilograms (26 pounds) of basic food – rice, oil, pasta, canned beans and canned meat – enough to feed one person for a month.
It was a burden for some of the elderly in the village to carry, but the neighbors helped. The boxes are loaded in wheelbarrows and tied to bicycles, because dogs and children love to play in the crowd.
The gathering was fun, a trip to the village shop and the chance to say hello to the neighbors, perhaps to forget about Lebyazhe’s other problems for a few hours.
“Yes, six months without electricity. And now it’s been three months without gas, but we will somehow make it,” said the 65-year-old. Lyubov Polushkyna.

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