Destruction caused by Russian shelling
Destruction caused by Russian shelling Reuters

A week into the war between Russia and Ukraine, Russian forces appear to have taken control of the southern city of Kherson, with images of their troops patrolling the city. Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak Wolf, the Chabad rabbi of Kherson, spoke with Radio 103FM and related something of his experiences.

"We are all safe and well so far," Rabbi Wolf said. "They [the Russians] are here, and that's that. Hundreds of tanks, hundreds of APCs, hundreds of troops... their army is in control here. Things are getting clearer little by little."

Rabbi Wolf added that "up until Monday night, we were still able to go out on the streets and check up on hundreds of families, to make sure they had food to eat."

Asked whether there have been civilian casualties in Kherson, Rabbi Wolf answered in the affirmative.

"Unfortunately, yes. Tuesday was an especially hard day; from seven in the morning there was intensive machine-gun fire as well as general shooting and explosions, which lasted until two or three in the afternoon. It was very close by, just 500 or 600 meters (around 200 yards) from my home. Around 300 people were killed that day.

"From Tuesday evening, on the other hand, things have been much more quiet. That was when hundreds of Russian tanks and armored vehicles started entering the city with hundreds of soldiers that stationed themselves on every street corner. They're all over, not just on the main roads, and that has kept things quiet since then."

Media reports since the start of the invasion have stressed the strong resistance displayed not only by the Ukrainian army but also by regular citizens, with documentation of men and women preparing firebombs to be used against Russian forces. Rabbi Wolf related that in Kherson, too, many regular citizens attempted to halt the Russian advance, but "they never stood a chance. I'm afraid many families were injured in such attacks."

Kherson is home not only to Jewish families but also to a number of Israelis. "There have been Israelis living here for years, and some of them pray in our synagogue on a regular basis," Rabbi Wolf said. "We have been in constant contact with them, and I begged them to stay at home until things started to become clearer, which is what's happening now.

"Last night, the mayor posted an address to all the city's residents on his official webpage, after coming to some kind of agreement with the local Russian commander. There's now an official curfew every night, from eight until six the next morning, and it is going to be very strictly enforced - I don't think I need to explain what that means," Rabbi Wolf said.

"People will be permitted to go out on the streets by day, but only by themselves or with no more than one other person," he added. "People will be allowed to drive but only very slowly and they should be prepared to be stopped by Russian soldiers and to have the entire contents of the vehicle inspected.

"And I really want to stress how amazing the Jewish People have been throughout," Rabbi Wolf concluded. "Jews all over have been expressing their concern for us and I ask you all for that to continue - let's carry on expressing who we really are. Do a good deed, help someone out - that's what's going to help us get through this."