0 2 min 1 yr

With a dusting of fresh winter snow settling around us and the crackle of electricity loud in the wires over our heads, Michael runs his gloved fingers over golf ball-sized holes in the crippled hulk of a huge transformer.

“Here, and here, and here,” he says, as he shows where shrapnel from a Russian missile punctured the transformer’s thick sides.

Sharp metal fragments of the missile lie on the ground nearby.

Along the way, other transformers as big as bungalows are disappearing behind protective cocoons of concrete and sandbags.

Michael sent his first family – his wife and teenage son – to Europe early in the war. Their dog, a playful golden retriever, now accompanies him to work every day.

The transformer – 130 tonnes of twisted metal, dangling wires and scorch marks where cooling oil leaked and caught fire – is not easy to replace.

“I know how much effort it takes to build this, to install and launch it,” says Michael, a veteran of 30 years in this industry. “It’s not something you can buy in a store.”

The same goes for the turbines inside – monstrous, deafening mechanical dinosaurs, churning and hissing away at the heart of the plant. They’re hugely impressive machines, but there’s little time to admire them, as the air raid siren sounds for the third time this morning.

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