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Rescue Operations, Devastated Maidan Square, and the Surviving Flag in Photos by Pavlo Dorohoi

On March 1, 2022, Russian forces launched a missile strike on the central square of Kharkiv – Maidan Svobody. Twenty-nine people lost their lives. As seen from surveillance camera footage, the explosion occurred at 8:02 AM. At that time, at least four cars were near the square. The missile hit the right wing of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration building. The Opera House, Philharmonic, and part of the residential area, including four- and five-story buildings, were also damaged. However, the Ukrainian flag on the Regional State Administration building remained undamaged.

Oleg Synegubov, the head of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration, noted that the Russians shelled the center of Kharkiv with "Grads" and cruise missiles. Boris Redin, the coordinator of the tent "All for Victory" located opposite the entrance to the Regional State Administration building, mentioned that there were two missile strikes in total. At that time, about ten people were in the tent, and they ran for cover.

On March 1, photographer Pavlo Dorohoi was in Kharkiv, staying at his friends' apartment.

On the first day of the full-scale invasion, he left home in the village of Ray-Olenivka to work as a fixer for foreign publications. This job allowed him to take photos until accreditation from the Ukrainian Armed Forces was obtained.

Pavlo Dorohoi recalls that the first morning of spring in Kharkiv was unusually quiet. Around 8 AM, the building shook, and the sound of the explosion came a bit later. "A friend showed me a video where you can see a missile hitting the administration building. I watched it again and again, trying to comprehend this fact: Russia struck at the very center of Kharkiv. At the beautiful city where I was born and raised. Where my son was born," says Pavlo Dorohoi. He decided to go to Maidan Svobody and take photos. On the way, he was stopped by SBU (Security Service of Ukraine) employees, to whom he showed his documents and camera. Pavlo walked to the central square through the deserted Sumskaya Street. In the distance, he saw torn wires and Christmas decorations.

"On Sumskaya, you could hear the sounds of alarms from broken shops. I walked up to Maidan Svobody, and the broken windows became more and more. Closer to Maidan, the asphalt was completely covered with glass. I walked on broken glass for the first time," the photographer recounts. He adds that these sounds, images, and smells will stay with him for a lifetime.

Photo: consequences of the Missile Strike on the Kharkiv Regional State Administration on March 1, 2022 by Pavlo Dorogoi

In the center, Pavlo saw the damaged corner of the administration building and a gap from another explosion, near which firefighters were rushing. The "All for Victory" tent was simply gone – it was blown away by the explosive wave. The day before, Pavlo had met volunteers from the tent and worried that they might not survive. Miraculously, no one in the tent was harmed.

Photo: consequences of the Missile Strike on the Kharkiv Regional State Administration on March 1, 2022 by Pavlo Dorogoi

“The first dead body I saw in my life was on Maidan Svobodi. Four people were carrying it on a stretcher. I realized it was a man because of the big boots dangling in the air. They placed the dead man near a broken 'Peugeot' car, which was parked next to the tent. There was already the body of a woman – I realized it by her small, delicate ankles," says Pavlo Dorohoi. After that, the photographer witnessed many deaths. On the day of the attack, ten bodies were pulled out from the rubble. In the following weeks, rescuers dismantled the ruins in search of bodies. The last ones were pulled out in mid-March.

Photo: consequences of the Missile Strike on the Kharkiv Regional State Administration on March 1, 2022 by Pavlo Dorogoi

«Before this, I couldn't believe that in the 21st century, people could still resolve issues with weapons. Unfortunately, they can», – says photographer Pavlo Dorohoi.

It is worth noting that the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers has initiated a series of materials dedicated to key events of the Russian war against Ukraine, where we will publish memories and photographs of Ukrainian documentary photographers.

The project is implemented with the support of ЗМІN.


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