Andriy Shved, 41, at his street food shop in central Bakhmut last month. “In the morning, the shelling is from 8 until 9. Then, in the afternoon, it’s from 2 until 4,” he said.Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
It takes just over a minute to microwave the mini pizza that Andriy Shved sells in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. In that same amount of time, a high explosive shell could land, shattering windows, maiming customers or demolishing his snack stand in a neighborhood increasingly bombarded by Russian artillery.
But despite the risks that come with any order, the oblong cheese, meat and dill pie is a top seller among the Ukrainian soldiers and residents who make up the dwindling customer base. Mr. Shved thinks his food stall is the last one open in the battered city, a pivotal battleground in the nearly 10-month old war.
“In the morning, the shelling is from 8 until 9. Then, in the afternoon, it’s from 2 until 4,” sighed Mr. Shved, 41. “If it comes, then it comes — there won’t be a place for worry.”
Ukraine’s fierce defense of the city has become a symbol of pride and solidarity for the nation, with “Hold Bakhmut” emerging as a rallying cry. This week, President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the city, meeting with some of the soldiers. Mr. Shved, who was at his shop, said that he hadn’t seen his country’s leader and that the president certainly “didn’t buy belyashi from me,” referring to his dumplings.
Mr. Shved goes to great lengths to keep the snack bar open, ignoring the scolding from his wife and concealing where he works from his daughter, 7.
Every day, Mr. Shved drives from the neighboring town of Chasiv Yar to Bakhmut. His routine and face have become familiar enough that the soldiers have ceased asking, for the most part, why he is driving into one of the most heavily shelled cities in Ukraine.