Artur Edamov is a Ukrainian cyclist living in Kharkiv, just across the border from Russia. Through his camera and his words, this is his story.
I want to tell you my story about the war and my bike.
There has been a war in my country against Russia since 2014 (but really, it has been going on for 300 years). For the past eight years, it was only in eastern Ukraine, in the Donbass.
Then, at the end of February, everything changed.
I live in Kharkiv. It is 30 km from the Russian border, in the northeast of Ukraine. I was not afraid of war coming to my city until February 24, because I had no way of imagining what war is.
And now I know. It’s terrible, very terrible. Panic, fear and hatred – just these feelings – since Russia started bombing my city.
All Ukrainians feel guilty. Some feel guilty because they are in a safe place; others because they have food and water, or because their city has not been bombed, or because they are in “safety” and not at the front. I have the same feelings. I volunteered in the regional council building until it was destroyed by a rocket. I was very lucky to be in another place at that time.
After the invasion, many people left Kharkiv by car or train. Public transport stopped working. Everything stopped working. It was almost impossible to buy gasoline. It was a huge problem for people without cars to get around. Taxi drivers raised prices up to $200 for 5 km. But also, there were many drivers who helped without any charge.
After the first two weeks, my pregnant wife was also forced to move to a safer place. She is now in Poland and we are expecting a baby – our first child – in two months. It’s a lot easier for me now that I know my wife is safe, but I know she’s very worried about me, so I try to be online as much as possible. But it’s a big change.
Just a year ago, we cycled through Ukraine through territory now occupied by Russian troops. We have made plans for the future. And now we don’t even know when we’ll meet again.
Almost all of my friends have also left town. I decided to stay and try to help in any way, even though I didn’t really know how. I wanted to do everything and as much as possible.
After my Schwinn Rocket ATV was stolen a year ago, I worked hard and bought a Cube Nuroad. I had never ridden gravel before, but the global hype affected me as well. Now I understand that for me the category of bike does not matter – mountain bike, fat bike, gravel or city bike. I can be happy with anything. Just a bike. No super speed, no perfect looks. I just need a reliable bike to ride with my wife and friends. I am totally satisfied with my current bike friend.
Kharkiv is Ukraine’s second largest city after kyiv, but it’s not ideal for cycling. We have a bicycle path along the forest and nothing more, and the bicycle infrastructure has been neglected in the development of automobile infrastructure. But we often drove out of town on weekends, with or without overnight stays.
Once or twice a year, I organized a week-long bicycle trip outside the Kharkiv region, with my wife or friends. Ukraine is very beautiful and you can pitch your tent wherever you want – and in recent years several interesting routes have been created. Unfortunately, they will not be able to be used for years to come, as many roads and forests have been mined by Russian soldiers.
After the invasion, when the city started having transportation problems, my bike helped me a lot. E-bike owners would be even happier (as long as the electricity is still working in their home).
One day my brother got sick and I got on my bike without hesitation and brought him some medicine.
The other day, my friends asked me to bring food to their loved ones in an area where there were no stores open within walking distance.
I realized that in this way I could help others. My wife’s bike bags have become the best solution for this activity. I found out later that in other more dangerous areas cyclists had gathered and were helping by delivering food and medicine. I stopped feeling alone.
A problem with my bike now is that the brakes don’t work; I don’t understand the technical aspects of the bikes and the bike shops are closed. But I’m saved by the fact that there are few cars left in town and the snow has almost melted. Another problem is the lack of carrier; sometimes I have to carry water, but I put it in my backpack.
But, let that be my biggest problem.
Now I work from home in the morning and evening, throw DDOS Attacks on Russian sites, and if I have requests during the day, I get on my bike and try to help those in need. The bike also helps me to decompress mentally, and not to think for a moment about the war.
Russian troops cannot break through the city defenses, so they use heavy artillery. At any time, in any part of the city, we can be the target of missile fire, and up to 50 bombings take place in Kharkiv every day.
More than 1,000 houses were destroyed. The historic city center is also badly damaged. 75% of hospitals, one in three schools and one in four kindergartens have already been destroyed. Russian soldiers attempt to destroy all civilian infrastructure and bomb overcrowded places and humanitarian aid centres.
I stopped being scared after the first week. My house is intact and I did not come under fire, but there were several heavy shellings within a kilometer. Explosions and air raid sirens become commonplace. You can’t always be scared and you get used to it, but I still can’t sleep in my bed by the window. The hallway floor is a safer place, but it won’t save me from a direct missile hit.
I am not a hero. A lot of people are doing a thousand times more than I am – evacuating people, providing medical care in basements, putting out fires under bombardment. Everyone does what they can. And I’m sure we will win.
Слава Україні! 🇺🇦
A shorter version of this post originally appeared on Reddit. CyclingTips worked with Artur to modify and expand it in this article.
To find out how to help Ukraine and Ukrainians affected by the Russian invasion, see here: https://supportukrainenow.org
To donate to Artur personally – he plans to spend all funds raised on humanitarian needs like food, water and medicine – his Paypal details are edamov(at)gmail.com