Ukraine during one year of war in Donbass. Digest of everyday events

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A story of the man faced the horror and the pain of the CIA-led Ukrainian ‘Revolution of digity’. This is how pro-Kiev Ukrainains call Euromaidan.

Ukraine during one year of war in Donbass. Digest of everyday events

This article originally appeared at Fsksrb, translated from Serbian by Stevo Marjanović exclusively for SouthFront

My friend, a native of Volinsky region (historical region in northwestern Ukraine), a teacher, in the same year buried her two students, who loved and knew from childhood. The boys lived in the same street, went in the same class. One of them went as a volunteer in the Armed Forces of Novorossiya, and the other was mobilized in the Ukrainian army. They waged war against each other. Both were killed… This is now life in a country that has yet until recently been seen as united and indivisible Ukraine…

* * * *

Summer of 2014. From mobile headsets behind the sounds of bullets exploding I hear the halting voice of a friend. On the sixth floor of his apartment in Donetsk mobile only works if you go out on the balcony. It has two balconies, one looking at the airport and the other at the train station. There are shootings on both sides. My friend lives in an eerie building that is unexpectedly left without tenants. Only those who guard the entrances and apartments are left.

If there is a connection we hear on the phone every day. He tells me about the new events in Donetsk, about what he sees and feels. In the eerie town he looks into the spooky store where there are no sellers or buyers. He wanders along the former supermarket, past deserted shelves, hoping to find anything that could be eaten. He found an onion, some cookies and sprats in tomato sauce. Hardly, because in the supermarket there are plenty of ghosts, and all of them are hungry. It is easier for him than others: he sent his wife and daughter away from the war. Many then left in a hurry, somewhere and somehow. They thought – all this will soon pass.

My friend goes to work every day, under the bullets, he works in an organization that provides a normal life in the two regions of Lugansk and Donetsk region. The firm is in Kiev. One year they managed to do it, they even received salary, indeed, with interruptions and incomplete, but they received them. In September of the same year, his wife returned to Donetsk and began working in a high school. In one year, the school did not manage to organize normal work. Two-thirds of students are dispersed to other schools, one part is moved to Kharkov. What awaits them in the future no one could say. One part of her school, was moved to the city of Krasny-Liman (in the Donetsk region), which remained under the control of the Ukrainian authorities. They offered my friends wife to work on college there. What to do? Yet her husband is in Donetsk, her house is there too… But – she remained…

That is how my friend was left alone. From July 1, all workers of his company, a branch in Donetsk, were dismissed. DPR authorities have not established a new structure, although the organization does important functions relating to the provision of normal life. No Salary, retirement is far, humanitarian aid for his age is not provided. What should he do?

A friend told me that the whole group of experts from his organization went along with the families in order to recruit in the same structure, but in Russia. He told me that at first they condemned those who left, and after that those who were condemning – repented. And the most important thing was that, today, no one can give me a simple answer to the simple question: what next?
***

My mobile is falling apart from ringing all day and night. I’m waiting to hear from them, but they do not call back. In Lugansk. There lives my friend since childhood, since school days. She has been several days in the cellar together with her family. I shout as hard as I can to throw it all and that she comes to me. And her house is, just like the building of my friend, along the way to the airport. But the Lugansk airport.

Finally my friend jumps out of the wagon (you cannot get out normally) of the train “Lugansk – Kharkov”, with hands that are shaking and legs she can’t feel. Chin quivers, instead of words out of her mouth came out desperate, crying sounds. The train in which she had arrived was the last. From that day the traffic between the Lugansk and Kharkov is aborted. She managed to transfer children to a safe place, where they are now. Children go to someone else’s school, there is no work for adults.

When we arrived at my place I gave my friend a place to sit, and I putted the bread in the toaster. It’s hard to describe what happened when she heard the sound of toaster that baked bread (it was a sound similar to the sound that is heard when rifle is fired) – she covered her head with her shaking hands and went to hide – under the table… Second day, after the Minsk agreements were signed, she returned to Lugansk in her house and she is now living in fear, without hope of something good. She lives with her suitcase packed if she has to flee again somewhere safe.

Lugansk residents were fleeing in different directions, in an endless stream, to escape the bombing. They all hoped that the war will not last long, that it will somehow fade away. But it did not. The whole families went, to Kharkov and other cities. The people were returning back alone or with some other family member.

My friend told me that in those who after a few months came back to Lugansk, but until then they were on the Ukrainian side, noticed a change of consciousness. Ukrainian media is leading merciless information war. They went as one people, and came back as completely different. There are conflicts and quarrels among people everywhere and for any reason – in a store, during transport, at work. Even in the family. This is now our present.

***

… January 2015, Christmas holiday. Whole families have went to the ice rink. I’m looking at children and waiting for them to arrive, I sit on the bench by the ice field. Next to me sits an older man and starts a conversation. He too is waiting for his family to return from the rink. As he said, he was a colonel. After he completed Ryazanskaya military school in Soviet times he was transferred to Ukraine, Donetsk. He lives there with his family all his life. First he served in the Soviet and then in the Ukrainian army. His family remained in the Ryazan region. These are the Russians in Ukraine country. One would say…

The colonel then said he hates the people of Donetsk and Lugansk region, especially the miners. In his eyes, the miners are almost not human. They, like moles, sit under the ground, and when they roll up to the surface they drink vodka and make a mess. Of these evil forces, he said, the country must be cleansed, so other people can take their place. An officer of the former Soviet army told me that he was ready to strangle with his hands those who, live in the territories controlled by “separatists” but come to them in Artyomovsk because of their pensions and food.

The colonel reproached their army commanders for “pocket” in Illovaisk, he assured me that the Ukrainian army is invincible. He boasted that the salt mines of Artyomovsk are full of artillery weapons which, if something comes up, are enough for fifty years long “partisan war”. Only – there are not enough hands to handle those weapons. And while I was listening him, I thought that in Makeyevka, under colonel’s bullets, my brother lives with his family. There are also my friends, classmates, there are thousands of children and the elderly.

Of course I could just talk about that to colonel. I kept quiet. And then, at home, for a long time I stood under the shower, as if I was trying to wipe out this sticky hatred that was in stories of former Soviet and former Russian man…

***

Chaos in the country increases chaos in heads, affects almost every family, in every work collective, in every friendship. It can be seen on the faces of passers-by, on their faces in public transport, on customers in the stores.

…Associate with whom I work for over 12 years side by side, once said that the residents of Donetsk and Lugansk should be wiped out. To my question: “Why?” she responds simply: “Let them know!” She admonished me that disguised Russian soldiers are walking around in Kharkov. When I asked her whether she had seen at least one of them and how is she so sure, she replied that she saw it on TV, and she believes television…

One colleague said he helped his friend to transport helmets, bulletproof vests and ammunition with his car from Lviv to Chuhuiv  to  “participants of anti-terrorist operation”. When I asked how he could become an assistant to the murder of civilians he responded briefly: they deserved it, let them pay now. It is a lesson for the residents of Kharkov…

My acquaintance has a husband from Kharkov, 65 years old, who is an ethnic Abkhaz. He volunteered for Novorossian forces. He came home only after the signing of the Minsk Agreement, in the autumn of 2014.

I know some residents of Kharkov who think to leave permanently. Reasons vary, but the root is the same. The children have no future, no prospect for work, to put it simply – there is no normal life. Smart, talented and young are going. They leave Ukraine. Do we have to wonder if at the Department for Russian language at the journalist faculty of the “Karazin” Kharkov National University those who speak Russian are being spied. Parents who want their children to know Russian, at an improved level, cannot find professors: professors are simply afraid that somebody will betray them. And all this – in Russian Kharkov!

In some schools of Kharkov everyday practice was introduced to line up children, they also call combatants of ATO (Anti-terrorist operation) there too. They create “five minutes of hatred.” Forcing children to shout as loud as they can: “Glory to the heroes!” and “Moskalyaku na gilyaku!” (i.e. “Guillotine the Muscovites, i.e. the Russians “). Those who do not shout are placed in front of the rest, where they are again forced to shout. This is the creation of Ukrainian “Hitlerjugend”…

And despite all this – you have to live. Not everyone can leave. They live, feeling as if they were in exile.

***

I’m in train. The wagon has compartments. Except me – three other passengers: a woman – a pensioner and two men somewhere near 30 – 35 years. They’ve started talking. The men are from the Nikolayevsky district, they were going to Kharkov to pick up their document they didn’t get back after a spring mobilization for a few months. One year they fought in the ATO, as they were in the first mobilization. One of them barely stayed alive because he was in Debaltsevo “pocket”. He was silent all the time. While he fought his wife left him and took the child. He was alone. And without a job.

The other was crossing himself all the time, he was rejoicing because he had the opportunity to guard and not kill anyone. His wife left him too. He talked a lot, nervously. He showed a photograph in which he was among the members of Aidar battalion. He said that there is no one to fight, but if there is a command to march on Kiev, he will again take up the gun. It is as everybody who remained in the area of operations, is ready to march on Kiev, because this government should be wiped out, but how can they leave the position, when they will be immediately occupied by the Russian Army?

Former ATO fighter was still talking how among them there were almost no fighters from Western Ukraine: for Maidan “zapadenci” (i.e. “Westerners”) got wages, while the ATO was not paid. Mainly boys from Odessa, Nikolayevsk, Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhia district, were mobilized in ATO, few of them were from Kharkov. There were also some from Donetsk and Lugansk district. From the Western Ukraine was a little over 10% of all conscripts. As soon as the mobilization was announced, they urgently traveled somewhere or went into hiding to avoid getting drafted.

The third passenger – a pensioner, she was a citizen of Russia. She lives in Ukraine for a long time now, but she was traveling to Belgorod to pick up pension. Her children and grandchildren are in Russia. She said she hates Putin, and Lavrov for some reason, but she won’t take the citizenship of Ukraine – Ukraine’s pensions are small.

That’s how we live – in trains, public transport, we go to the store or to work.

We are living in unimaginable porridge of different opinions, ideologies and life situations.

***

A neighbor on the first floor, a medical worker, spoke about the horrors of overcrowded morgues, in which they last year brought the hills of corpses of boys who had not yet even tasted life, but they were soldiers in the Ukrainian army. She admitted that in her ears still echoes ringing of mobile phone, ringing which was not interrupted. The phones are ringing among those who will never answer. A year has passed. She still does not sleep at night!

Her husband is in the Kharkov aircraft factory. He sees foreign airplanes landing at the factory airport and knows what armaments are supplied to Ukraine from the USA and European countries.

***

Yes, I recall how they clapped Kharkov entrepreneurs Kernes and Dobkin when they “took out their swords” and stated that they are opening “The second Ukrainian Front” against the Kiev usurpers. Poor hypocrites! Kharkovites did not forget how many times these chameleons changed their color to get closer to the current government.

This is how life goes on in a country that was once called Ukraine, which inherited from the Soviet authorities gigantic scientific and technical potential and colossal industrial base, and had a fantastic humus – one of the best in the world. Today, living here, you’re never sure with whom you are in the same boat, with whom you sit in the same train compartment, in what kind of life show you’ll need to participate in general, and not realizing are you actor or spectator in that show…

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