Since the last time CNN’s team was on the ground in southern Ukraine six weeks ago, nothing has changed, and yet, everything has.
The heavily contested areas are in a brutal stalemate with the give and take on Russian advances as they try to move towards Mykolaiv, a strategic port city.
Constant shelling has torn apart much of the area, trapping many who cannot flee while leaving many isolated — and alone.
The village of Shevchenkove was held by Russia in March but the Ukrainian military has taken it back.
On Sunday, CNN visited and witnessed what is left of it—buildings damaged on every road and empty homes. So much is abandoned, but the sounds of outgoing and incoming artillery fire continue.
More the 50% of this village is destroyed, the military escort told CNN.
The shelling starts getting closer, but two neighbors walking down a gravel road continue chatting, not a flinch in reaction to the sounds of the blasts.
“I go out every day, the goats are waiting for me,” Lyuba says about her goats that were born when the war began. “They need me to give food — the goats. And they give milk, of course. I call them my children of war.”
The damage from shrapnel is visible outside the home. She showed CNN the area where she sleeps in their dark and damp candle-lit bunker. She and her husband have been lucky.
Driving into another village nearby, the damage looks the same. In Kotlyareve, few people walk the streets, several elderly are seen on bikes.
“In war I was born, and in war I will die,” Valentina said as she sat alone in her front yard under the shade of a tree.
Using a stick to help her walk, she showed CNN the damage to her home and the craters the shelling left behind.
“Look at these torments,” she said. “This house was smashed to clay. I am left alone in four walls. Nothing anywhere.”
For many, there is nowhere else to go. Some say they are too old to evacuate. For others, it’s their land they don’t want to give up.
“It would be best to lie down at night and not get up. Neither hear nor see. Pity all the people, pity the soldiers,” Valentina added, sometimes mumbling to herself.
But for mothers like Svitlana, it’s waiting for her son to return from the war in Mariupol that keeps her here.
“Our children are all at war. My son is a prisoner. If he comes back, and if I have gone, it’s like I’ve abandoned him. We wait, hope, worry, he is alive and we will live,” she told CNN.