War makes life harder for Ukraine's visually impaired

STORY: "l could be stepping on something that might explode. It’s horrible, really horrible."

Viktor Solovyanenko is part of a small community of visually impaired people in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv that can hear the war but cannot see the damage wrought by Russian bombardment.

For the past six months, he has ventured outside only when absolutely necessary.

"It's dangerous for me to go outside. I only go to work and back, and I only use one way for that. I try to walk around the city as little as possible, because it’s dangerous."

He lives in a hostel run by the Ukrainian Society of the Blind that provided shelter for 60 people before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Many of the residents have fled abroad but 18 remain, including Natalia Pokutnia, who says the scale of the devastation was initially hard to comprehend without being able to see it.

"Everyone laughs at this, but I have a good visual memory. I remember where to go, but if there's a pit, I will certainly fall right into it.

"At first, we didn't understand what was going on. Like seriously, everything got so chaotic. I probably heard airplanes, I haven’t seen them myself, people told me that. We immediately covered and closed the window so that we wouldn't be visible. The guys told me it was horrifying, they saw yellow round spots flying around. Here, everything was moving and shaking. It was horrible."

Ukraine drove Russian forces back from the outskirts of Kharkiv in May but the city, Ukraine's second largest, remains under fire.

Russia has denied targeting civilians, but many residential buildings in the city have been damaged.