The jail they took him to is a two-story building in the Sklotarne district. Serdyuk could see his own apartment building from the window. The prison is empty now, and Serdyuk shows his cell on the upper floor. Eight men had been locked inside. They were forced to memorize the Russian anthem and jump up every time the door opened and shout: “Glory to Russia! Glory to Putin! Glory to Shoigu!” Sergei Shoigu is Russia’s Defense Minister. Two days after the arrest, the guards took Serdyuk to the cellar for interrogation. They beat him with clubs and a whip, and his body was red and blue from his buttocks to his knees. Then, he claims, they attached two electrodes to his testicles and connected them to a crank generator. “Sometimes, they turned it fast and you screamed loudly; other times, they turned it slowly and you just feel the current. I was soaked with sweat,” Serdyuk says. When they were done, they said. “If you don’t remember where your son is, this will continue tomorrow.” But the next day, they released Sedyuk anyway.
Kherson is known for its southern climate, juicy watermelons from the surrounding countryside, a rich past and a not so rich present. Abandoned construction projects line poorly paved streets. There’s a small historical town center and a large river port.
The most noticeable legacy of the Russian occupation are the many posters and billboards. “Kherson – Forever with Russia” is written on them, or “Russians and Ukrainians Are One People.” Historical figures like Alexander Pushkin or city founder Grigory Potemkin are used to promote the annexation, but there are also material promises: “A dignified life for pensioners of the region,” “Free Medicine.” They also show people in traditional Ukrainian shirts and the Russian flag. If the annexation of Kherson ultimately failed, it certainly wasn’t due to a lack of street advertising. Now, most posters are torn down or smeared with paint.
Day care educator Laryssa Resnik saw firsthand how the material promises worked. Resnik was opposed to the annexation. She wears a blue and yellow scarf and insists on speaking Ukrainian, even…