Kyiv prepares. Anti-tank hedgehogs and Molotov cocktails

Paweł Pieniążek form Kyiv – 03/056/2022. Originally published in Tygodnik Powszechny.

PAWEŁ PIENIĄŻEK FROM KYIV | The Ukrainian capital prepares for a Russian attack. Everyone helps to the best of their abilities. Some go fight, others take care of supplies, build barricades and fill bottles with gasoline.

Thirty-six-year-old sculptor Volodymyr Zurawel sits outside welding pieces of metal. In Kyiv his monuments decorate, among others, Kyiv-Zhuliany airport, Poshtova square and Muromets Park. Now he creates anti-tank hedgehogs that people plant all over the capital. The city has been littered with barricades in recent days. They are made of sandbags, concrete blocks, trucks and railroad cars. Hedgehogs stand in front of some of them too. Zurawel is capable of producing six to ten pieces a day. He would like to make five hundred to thwart the plans of the Russian troops.

“This is modern art,” jokes Zurawel. “They say hedgehogs successfully stop tanks. Like everyone, I’m attempting to make even a small contribution to stopping this insanity.”

In Kyiv and all over Ukraine, residents are organize on their own and helping to the best of their abilities. Some stand at checkpoints, pick up weapons and go fight. Others organize the delivery of food, of necessities for the civilian and military population, and support the defense of the city as it prepares for a potential attack from Russia.

Fire in a bottle

Passing through a nearby door, I enter several rooms crammed with Molotov cocktails. They’re primitive incendiary grenades made of a bottle two-thirds full of gasoline and one-third of engine oil. A strip of fabric that serves as a fuse is inserted into them. The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine sends a reminder on Twitter from time to time about where it is best to throw Molotov cocktails. In the case of a tank, the most vulnerable places are the air vents and optics. “Destroy! Burn! Cast the enemy out of your home, your country! ” — wrote the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.

Thirty-year-old Tetiana Lozowa sits amidst gasoline vapors, boxes full of explosive cocktails, and cuts material into fuses. She was born in Khabarovsk in southeastern Russia, but moved to Ukraine with her mother at the age of 12. They were running from Tetiana’s father, who abused them. She is a physiotherapist under normal circumstances but now she does other things — she delivers medicine to the hospital, finds accommodation in other oblasts for people leaving Kyiv, and prepares Molotov cocktails. She feels tied to Ukraine.

“I can’t just sit at home, can’t eat, sleep, or think about anything else. On Friday, my friends, volunteers, died near Kyiv. Who can do nothing after something like that?” — she asks rhetorically.