“We were taking away people’s remains”: how rescuers worked in occupied Staryi Saltiv. Parts of the State Emergency Service resumed work in liberated Staryi Saltiv in Kharkiv region. In May, when the liberation of the village began, shelling intensified. In addition to civilian houses, Russians damaged the fire station — rescuers returned to it in the fall. Andrii Mikhailov says that since February 24th, despite the shelling, he and his 16 colleagues continued to work. “Our unit was repeatedly hit, but we performed our tasks as assigned. When planes flew above us, we hid in the observation hole under the car,” recalls Andrii Mikhailov. Russians occupied this village in Kharkiv region in the first days of a full-scale invasion. “In May, during the liberation of Staryi Saltiv by Ukrainian defenders, Russians intensified their shelling. There were aircraft and mortar attacks. A convoy of cars with civilians was shelled. They were leaving Vovchansk and were fired upon,” recalls local rescuer Vadym Portyanko. Several cars burned down, with people, with everything. They were taking away the remains of people and property that remained and handed them to the police and criminal investigators. The rescuer says that it was difficult to work under shelling – there were neither helmets nor bulletproof vests: “We didn’t have water, the hydrants didn’t work. We could only get water at the rescue station or in the lake.” In May, Russian shells hit the fire station. Rescuers were transferred from Staryi Saltiv to Kharkiv, says rescuer Ivan Naboka. “I left on May 26th, when the slab had fallen here, there were specific hits. Not nearby, but right here. The Gazelle that was parked, its windshield was broken. It was physically impossible to be here,” Naboka recalls. Rescuers returned to Staryi Saltiv after the September counteroffensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and began repairs: they single-handedly repaired the roof and replaced broken windows. Local rescuers were supported by Kharkiv garrison during the repair: they provided building materials and went to help their colleagues in the region. They now have protective body armor and helmets for work. They also received a new rescue vehicle. In addition, a water motor pump was installed: it helps with the intake of water in hard-to-reach places, says the head of the local rescue unit, Andrii Mikhailov. “People come to us, turn to us to charge their phones, to warm up. We have a “point of invincibillity”. They make applications for the disposal of explosive objects, we react, we are here,” says Mikhailov. There is not a single undamaged house left in Staryi Saltiv, there is still no electricity, gas or heating.

Source: Ukrainian Public TV