Her husband being bedridden, this 79-year-old lady spends two to three hours a day bringing water home. “I’m very tired,” she admits.
Travel is likely to become even more exhausting as summer rolls around in southern Ukraine, sending the thermometer soaring.
Since the fighting near the front in April disabled a pipeline, directly cutting off access to water, the inhabitants have been walking, driving or cycling in search of tanker trucks, in this city located a few kilometers from the territories controlled by the Russian army.
Today, water shortages are just the umpteenth difficulties of a daily life that has been completely disrupted since the Russian invasion launched on February 24.
In this city of half a million people before the war, and elsewhere in Ukraine, cars line up for hours at gas stations as Russian attacks on refineries disrupt supplies across the country.
Other difficulties faced by residents: many shops and businesses remain closed and lessons at school are now only done online.
“I have a family of four. Can you imagine how much water we need for washing, for cooking, for making tea?” asks Valeriï Barichev, a 27-year-old baker, tying containers of drinking water on the back of his bike.
“I have to fetch about 120 liters a day,” he explains, when he counts the water also necessary for his professional activity.
– “Time” –
Military officials in the city believe it will take “at least another month” before access to tap water is restored.
“We are trying to solve the problem” as soon as possible, Captain-Lieutenant Dmytro Pletentchuk, of the Mykolaiv regional military administration, told AFP.
“It is a process that takes time and involves solving many technical problems, including drilling wells, treating water,” he explains.
In the meantime, residents are forced to buy bottled water, a major expense for some residents who have been without income for several months due to the war.
“Sometimes I come here every other day, sometimes twice a day,” says Viktor Odnutov, a 69-year-old pensioner. “It’s disheartening, both morally and physically. Thank God I can carry around 20 litres. But when I have back pain, I can’t even take a five-litre bottle.”
Volodymyr Pobedynsky, 82, says he often goes out alone to fetch water, which he uses to prepare borsch, a typical Ukrainian soup made from beets.
“I’m not afraid of the heat. My body is used to it,” he says. And while he admits finding out he’s still able to carry water at his age was a pleasant surprise, seeing troops crossing the Ukrainian border was a real shock for the Russian native.
“It makes me very sad,” he told AFP, recalling the many trips he and his wife made before to return to see family and friends in Russia.
“We were helping our parents, we were taking care of their garden,” he says. “Now we can’t even go there to take care of their graves.”