Only hours after a Russian missile attack struck the Kharkiv city center – including residential areas and the regional administration building – the head of the local Hillel chapter told Haaretz that multiple Jewish students from Ukraine’s second-largest city have joined the army as part of a national wave of civilians rallying to protect their homeland.
“We have volunteers from Hillel, students who went to the army, and we hope that Ukraine will be saved because Ukraine is a very wonderful place,” said Yulia Pototskaya.
She said that while it has been dangerous to go out on the streets of the northeastern Ukrainian city since the Russians attacked, she and other Hillel employees were doing what they could to help “our guys.”
“We have that and we keep in touch with them and support each other. We have volunteers who can help a little [with bringing people supplies but] it’s very dangerous now [to go outside],” she said.
With a rapidly dwindling phone battery and no power, it remains unclear how much longer Pototskaya will be able to continue supporting her staff and students, but she refuses to think of leaving Kharkiv.
“From 7 A.M. they started bombing, and we are without lights. I’m in shock, but I believe that our army will save us. Maybe I can [flee] but I don’t want to. I want to stay in my home. We hope that it will be finished soon."
According to Kharkiv region head Oleg Synegubov, Russia launched GRAD and cruise missiles on Kharkiv on Tuesday morning but the city defense has held.
"Such attacks are genocide of the Ukrainian people, a war crime against the civilian population!" he said.
Wearing a flak jacket and a helmet, Synegubov said in a video posted on social media on Tuesday morning that it was too early to know the number of casualties.
He shared a video showing Kharkiv regional administration building being hit by a missile and exploding. Reuters verified the authenticity of the video.
Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” that it says is not designed to occupy territory but to destroy its southern neighbor's military capabilities and capture what it regards as dangerous nationalists.
And just like Synegubov, Pototskaya struck a defiant tone, telling Haaretz that instead of the traditional Ukrainian patriotic cry of “Slava Ukraini” (glory to Ukraine), her countrymen have switched to the phrase “Russian ship go fuck yourself,” a reference to a group of Ukrainian servicemen who refused to surrender a small island off the coast of Odessa last Thursday.
Reuters contributed to this report.