When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

TOPIC: ukrainian civilians

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Last Holdouts: The Basement Lives Of Ukrainians Who Refuse To Flee Frontline Towns

Russian shells hit frontline cities Siversk and Lyman every day, but some people are refusing to abandon their homes. Life has gone underground. A year since the beginning of the Russian invasion, a reporter from Ukrainska Pravda meets people surviving in basements — their towns destroyed, but still alive.

LYMAN — The Lyman railway station was once the second largest in Ukraine, with 136 tracks spread over half a kilometer in the middle of the city. Now, the station lies ruined by the war. A destroyed pedestrian bridge has collapsed onto cars, bridges across the Siverskyi Donets river have been blown up and transportation through the area is at a standstill.

Lyman came under daily artillery and rocket bombardment when Russian forces attacked the city in May 2022. Ukrainian forces took the city back five months ago. Houses are still in ruins, but streets and sidewalks have been cleared. Lyman is like a time capsule, with sidewalks for tourists still visible among the ruins — but there are no excursions, no souvenir shops.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

The city is deserted, quiet. In the middle of the day, you can stand for several minutes on the corner of the once-busy streets before anyone passes by.

For the most part, feral cats are all that remain of the local community. Of 51,000 residents, only about 7,000 have remained. In residential areas, courtyards are an endless gallery of examples of human ingenuity, which flourishes in the absence of gas and water.

Watch VideoShow less