Oleksiy Polyakov, a professor of Ukrainian biology, is reading a book on his cellar, trying to ignore Russian mortar shells on top of the hill.
As the advancing Russians venture out onto the road, a fireman pushes his red truck into a bushfire ignited by an explosion.
The 84-year-old professor dropped his book on foreign travel and placed a crane around his neck to see how close the flames of his wooden door came.
They still seem to be quite a distance away and the firemen have taken only a few confident steps up the burning mountain – and much closer to the invading Russians on the other side.
But another ear-splitting mortar blast shattered the dust and eventually forced the professor to return to his 81-year-old wife.
“We’re sitting here waiting for our boys to start their counter-attack – for the Ukrainians to move on,” said Galina from the dark depths of a cellar piled up in jars of potatoes and pickles.
“Then the front will move further away and we will be free,” the spectacled professor agreed.
The hard truth is that Ukrainian forces – the heroes worshiped to defend Kiev and defeated the Russians around the northern city of Kharkiv – are retreating across parts of the Eastern Front.
The devastation often comes after weeks of fighting over towns and small towns as the Russians surround them in slow-moving waves.
In the village of Sidorov, white smoke from the burning field, like the licking at the door of a professor’s cellar, often marks the progress of Russia from afar.
“I’m telling everyone there’s no reason to worry when the explosion happens,” said constable Volodymyr Natimenko, packing his sister’s belongings before removing her from the burning village.
“But when it’s incoming, it’s time to run. And for the last two or three days things have been flying quite hard towards us.”
In the third month of the Russian aggression, the resilience of the Ukrainians often comes to the fore at the moment of their most painful loss.
Army volunteer Yaroslava sat on a slab of concrete a short walk from the professor’s cellar the previous evening from the remains of a school raised by a Russian exact attack.
The 51-year-old knew her husband’s unit had set up camp at the abandoned school just hours before the strike hit a part of the building occupied by the gym.
The woman stared at the spot where rescuers and D-Manira had seen a steady hand emerge from the rubble overnight.
“We settled in London before the war but it seemed we had no choice but to return,” Yaroslava said, still staring at the bodies.
“My two sons have just signed a three-year contract with the army. We will fight. We will still fight,” he said without taking his eyes off. “My war is not over.”
The professor’s cellar sits on the bank of a rolling river that the Russians have been trying to push south for more than a month.
One such attempt near the village of Bilogorivka earlier last week ended in a breakdown where the Russians saw dozens of armored vehicles and an unknown number of troops lost.
But the Kremlin forces surrounded the professor and his wife in the mountainous forest.
The advance of the Russians will give Sydorove a clean run across their 20-kilometer (12-mile) open field to the militarily important city of Sloviansk and the eastern administrative center of Ukraine, Kramatorsk.
Both are being targeted almost daily by long-range missile fire that has taken away disguised weapons storage sites and barracks.
What worries many across the region is how the Russians know where to strike.
The school where Yaroslava probably lost her husband was empty until the day the Ukrainian unit entered – and was immediately hit.
It has been ubiquitous since the first days of the Russian invasion – exacerbating fears that some locals are helping the invaders in better times and targeting them.
“There’s a lot of pro-Russian people here,” said Alexander Pogasy, a volunteer soldier who helped clear the school’s rubble. “The boys just came in and it hit.”
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)