Psychologist Natalia doesn’t get her news about Ukrainian army moves from TV. Like others we met in the Mykolaiv region, every day she follows anonymous first-hand reports on social media and knows Ukrainian soldiers on the frontline and volunteers who are trying to help civilians living on the territories temporarily occupied by Russia.
“What is going on in Mykolaiv and the Mykolaiv region is a horror, this is a real horror, what is going on in Kherson is unimaginable. It’s Bucha number two. The closer they /Ukrainian soldiers/ are to Kherson, the greater the chances of more civilians staying alive,” Natalia says.
Every other evening, Natalia bakes at home to send food to the frontline to support Ukrainian soldiers. "The road to get there is hard," she says. "The one to Kherson, temporarily occupied by Russia, is way harder. A drive that took an hour before now takes volunteers six days. Then medicine vital for life can be confiscated by the Russian army at checkpoints".
Countless villages in the south stand in ruins with their former inhabitants now displaced. Among them Maria who we met in a nursery home not far from Mykolaiv. Nothing is left of her family house in the Kherson region.
Maria Potsiluiko who has now almost lost her sight misses her daughter and grandchildren who have to live in a small apartment on another side of the country. She sobs when talking about her family scattered across the country.
Her husband Anatoliy was the last person evacuated from the village where the family has built their life. Six days after a rocket fell on his doorstep burning his feet and destroying what he'd put his life into - the building.
He was evacuated by his grandson, under gunfire - the mission appeared too risky for any humanitarian organisation.
A wide network of charities and volunteers supports the army and those most in need. Despite extreme fatigue, their devotion is remarkable yet barely enough to cope with all the devastation brought by the Russian aggression.
“We know a lot of our soldiers are taking back our land centimetre by centimetre and we are very grateful for it. We are trying to do everything possible to bring victory closer,” says Liudmila Falko a head of the charity 'Association for peace through the spiritual revival'
For people in southern Ukraine, the advances of the Ukrainian army mean the end of the imminent danger for them and their families and a chance to start rebuilding their lives.