A whole city behind its steel president

A whole city behind its steel president

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A city that cannot deny its mining history. Just look at the long chimneys of the many steelworks that seem to defy time.

Kryvyi Rih cannot deny its history where the steel industry occupies a large place.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Frédéric Arnould

Parts of this long city resemble ruined rural villages, with brick houses and distinctly Soviet-looking buildings. Populated with more than 600,000 inhabitants, the municipality has this little gray side of steel towns, but also above all this will hard as steel to defend itself for its survival.

The city of Kryvyi Rih cannot hide its Soviet past.

Photo: Radio-Canada

A metallurgical fortress

When the Russians tried to take President Zelensky’s hometown with a column of tanks in the early days of the war, they got a typical steel town response: the airport runway was blocked by big trucks and the road leading to the nearby town of Mykolaiv was closed by giant mining trucks, about 40 minutes before a Russian convoy arrived.

The kind of reaction that hardly surprises the residents of Kryvyi Rih, people of honor, word and action, explains Sergey Milutin, just like the darling of the city, the Ukrainian president, he adds .

Sergey Milutin, Deputy Mayor of Kryvyi Rih

Photo: Radio-Canada / Frédéric Arnould

He knows what he’s talking about, he first met Volodymyr Zelensky at the age of 17 in 1996, when they were competing in a popular television improv and comedy writing competition. A friendly competition that the future president won.

A beloved president

The sturdy guy, who has now become the deputy mayor of the city, recognizes the characteristics of a man who comes from a working-class town. To be a good leader, you must establish your authority and you will gain respect; and that’s what the president has always done throughout his life, first as an actor and then as a politician.

Kryvyi Rih District 95 where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was born and raised.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Frédéric Arnould

In the district where the Ukrainian president grew up, district 95, it is enough to pronounce the name of Zelensky for passers-by to say nothing but good things about him.

Tetiana, a 30-year-old who lives in the neighborhood, admires him because unlike other presidents, Zelensky stayed in the country when the Russian invasion began. He is doing his best in this war and I believe he will deserve a second term after the war is over. A war from which she is convinced that Ukraine will emerge victorious.

And when we ask Vladlena, a young barber from the city, if he finds faults in his president, he answers negatively: None, he’s a good person. He himself admits that wartime patriotism probably explains this blind faith in his president.

Andrii Shaikan, a classmate of Volodymyr Zelensky, heads the Institute of Economics at Kryvyi Rih University.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Frédéric Arnould

Zelensky, comic student and unifier

To find out more about the personality of the president, a detour to the university he attended is essential. In the building of the Kryvyi Rih Institute of Economics, the passage of Volodymyr Zelensky marked his classmates.

Andrii Shaikan stands next to a wooden school desk, all painted royal blue, which the school kept in honor of the first well-known actor and the president he later became . He remembers his colleague from law and finance courses. If you look at Zelensky’s personality, some think he’s always acting because he’s an actor, he says. However, it is above all a manager, in full control of business. As it was at the time of its schooling here. And he had a very subtle sense of humor.

Natalia Volosheniuk, professor at the Kryvyi Rih Institute of Economics

Photo: Radio-Canada / Frédéric Arnould

Same story from Professor Natalia Volosheniuk who taught finance and economics to the young Volodymyr in the 1990s. The qualities he demonstrated then are the same today. He stood out even in those early years for his decency, honesty and desire to achieve his goals. He was already a leader, because he knew how to bring together and unite the world around him.

A city targeted by the Russians

After failing to take control of the town of Zelensky a few weeks ago, Russia could try again to take this town and the resources it produces, according to a persistent rumor. A threat that does not frighten the residents at all. It would be a symbolic and strategic prize for Russian President Vladimir Putin to capture the birthplace of his enemy Ukraine.

Oleksandr Vilkul, head of the City’s military administration

Photo: Radio-Canada / Frédéric Arnould

On this subject, Oleksandr Vilkul, head of the military administration of the City, is not too worried. With his green cap which has the same shape as that worn by one of his idols, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, he likes to draw the current front line between Ukraine and Russia, about forty kilometers south of Kryvyi Rih. Nobody can say that he is safe today because of the Russian invader, but here in town we have troops ready to intervene in any situation.

Vilkul is convinced that its president, a strong man of his country and his hometown, will succeed in leading his troops to victory. We just need foreign countries to send us ammunition and military equipment as soon as possible to be able to put an end to the war.When do you need it? we ask him. “Yesterday”he replies bluntly.

The city of steel, Kryvyi Rih, has remained frozen in time.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Frédéric Arnould

Despite all the praise, don’t try to look for a life-size statue or posters of the president in Kryvyi Rih. Even with such unwavering support. The bearded giant that is his competition colleague, Sergey Milutin, offers a ready answer. We don’t have a statue of him, but we have something even cooler, he’s in our hearts and he’s the pride of this city and this country.

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