Russian-built Kharkiv Metro is a subterranean village for Ukrainians and their pets

NEWS AND COMMENT – KHARKIV, UKRAINE: It is very ironic that the Russia-built Kharkiv Metro is now serving as a refuge – a kind of subterranean village – for the citizens of Kharkiv during the brutal Russian invasion and destruction of their city. It was built when Ukraine was part of Russia in 1975.

And from a cat lover’s perspective the outcome is interesting. It means that people and their cats, and other companion animals such as ferrets and I presume dogs, are forced together in much closer proximity to each other. You have many of the remaining citizens of the city of Kharkiv living in the three lines and 30 stations of this Russian-built metro system.

Julia and her ginger tabby cat. She is an IT worker who continues to work in her subterranean home
Julia and her ginger tabby cat. She is an IT worker who continues to work in her subterranean home. Her cat’s harness will help calm him (see below). Photo: ‘handout’.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

There’s no doubt that the companion animals are learning to get on with each other. In technical terms, their home ranges i.e. the kind of space a domestic cat normally requires as inherited from their wild cat ancestor at around 10 acres and more, has been dramatically compressed into quite a small area. It would seem that all the cats of Kharkiv’s underground village have become full-time indoor cats on leashes.

Fortunately, domestic cats are very adaptable. Given time they will adapt to the presence of cats that are strangers to them. There is likely to be more interactions than normal between cats and other animals in this subterranean village. They will get on provided the introduction is supervised. This is why there is a necessity for cats to be on a lead at all times.

There are thousands of citizens in the metro system. I have to say that it looks quite cosy when you see the photograph of Julia Miroshrichenko and her cat. She has a handsome medium-longhaired ginger tabby companion who is almost certainly male as the male gender is linked to this coat type. And he has a beautiful harness. Interestingly, and Julia might not be aware of this, this sort of harness applies a bit of pressure to the flanks of a cat which helps to calm them.

There is a commercially produced product called the ‘Thundershirt’ which is designed to do exactly that.

It’s also interesting to note that Julia, 25, is an IT consultant who moved to underground village with her flatmate Ksenia Zhytnyk, also 25. She remarkably said that “I’m still doing my job, though it’s a bit hard to focus”. Wow, she is working from home in the classic post-Covid era. This is ideal for IT workers. I am a little surprised that she receives an internet signal so far underground and behind all that concrete.

It seems that the majority of people living in these Soviet-era metro stations do not venture outside. Some might pop out, but in general it appears to be to frightening and too dangerous. Kharkiv has been very severely damaged. The people living in the metro don’t know whether their homes have been destroyed or not. When they do occasionally emerge, they are sometimes killed by shelling.

For example, last Thursday, The Guardian newspaper reports that a rocket strike in the north of the city hit people queueing for food. One of them was a woman living in the metro who’d gone out for a short break.

Huge metal doors are closed in the evening at 6 PM. This is the time of the curfew and they seal people in the village for relative safety. However, they can still hear and feel the tremors created by the big bombs exploding above them.

Collecting food supplies by using the metro's 39 miles of railway line
Collecting food supplies by using the metro’s 39 miles of railway line. Photo: Evgenij Gonskij.

There seems to be a decent enough supply of food. They exercise and collect food supplies by daily treks along the vast network of tunnels. In all, there is 38.7 kilometers of railway line and 30 stations. Under normal circumstances each station opens at 5:30 AM and closes at 11:59 PM.

It seems that people fetching supplies walk along the railway line and emerge above to quickly find supplies and then return to their subterranean life.

There are some more Ukraine articles below.

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