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The village that helped save Kharkiv. The First Days of the Liberation of Tsyrkuny in the Photos of Yakiv Lyashenko

The de-occupied village of Tsyrkuny in the first days of liberation. May 2022. Photo by Yakiv Lyashenko


Tsyrkuny is a village beyond the ring road of Kharkiv, the administrative center of the Tsyrkuniv community, which was occupied by Russians on the first day of the invasion, February 24, 2024. For 72 days, the residents of Tsyrkuny suffered from Russian terror and looting. The enemy did not allow civilians to evacuate to the territory controlled by Ukraine, using them as human shields. On May 7, 2022, units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine liberated the village of Tsyrkuny, a northeastern suburb of Kharkiv, from the Russians.


The de-occupied village of Tsyrkuny in the first days of liberation. May 2022. Photo by Yakiv Lyashenko


On the second anniversary of the de-occupation of Tsyrkuny, the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers publishes photos by Yakiv Lyashenko, who documented the consequences of the Russian invasion.


Enemy shells from Tsyrkuny brought death to Kharkiv


"This was a significant event for Kharkiv, because after the liberation of Tsyrkuny, the shelling of the city significantly decreased," says photographer Yakiv Lyashenko. "From Tsyrkuny, the Russians were shelling Kharkiv with artillery. That is why it was important for the Defense Forces to push the enemy away from the city. The liberation of this village played a role in the preservation of Kharkiv."


The de-occupied village of Tsyrkuny in the first days of liberation. May 2022. Photo by Yakiv Lyashenko


The Kharkiv-based photographer documented the first days of the de-occupation of Tsyrkuny. He recalls that at first it was very difficult for the media to get there because the situation was still dangerous.


First, he stopped by Tsyrkuny with volunteers delivering humanitarian aid: "People were very happy about the de-occupation. They were tired, but happy."


The de-occupied village of Tsyrkuny in the first days of liberation. May 2022. Photo by Yakiv Lyashenko


Later, Yakov and other photographers were allowed to document the consequences of the Russian occupation. There he saw destroyed houses and streets. In particular, the photographer remembered a broken Russian KamAZ truck. Various shells were scattered near the vehicle, which were supposed to bring death to Kharkiv. "It was ammunition of various calibers, mines, charges for RPGs. There was a lot of different ammunition," Yakov recalls.


The de-occupied village of Tsyrkuny in the first days of liberation. May 2022. Photo by Yakiv Lyashenko


Explosive consequences


"At that time, information about the Russians mining everything was just beginning to appear. I remember an abandoned yellow car in the middle of the street. There was a slightly open window, which seemed to hint that it was worth opening the car door. There was quite possibly a deadly danger hiding there. The Russians could have left a grenade there, which would have detonated when they opened the door," Yakiv says about the danger that still remained in the village even after the Russians left.


The de-occupied village of Tsyrkuny in the first days of liberation. May 2022. Photo by Yakiv Lyashenko


Ukrainian pyrotechnics units and international non-governmental organizations were able to fully clear Tsyrkuny only in August 2023. Every day, sappers found at least 20 pieces of ammunition there.


The de-occupied village of Tsyrkuny in the first days of liberation. May 2022. Photo by Yakiv Lyashenko


 

Yakiv Lyashenko is a Ukrainian photographer from Kharkiv. He began his professional career in 2012. After the start of the full-scale invasion, he worked as a fixer for well-known photographers and simultaneously documented the events of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Currently, he is a freelance photojournalist at EPA Agency.


Social networks of the photographer: Instagram, Facebook


As a reminder, the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers has launched a series of materials dedicated to the key events of the Russian war against Ukraine, where it publishes memoirs and photographs of Ukrainian documentary photographers.


The project is being implemented thanks to the support of The Foundation for Polish-German Cooperation.


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