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  • Українці розповідають про пережите під час війни з росією

    Ukrainians talk about their experiences during the war with russia

    “One day it was so quiet that it was terrifying”: how Donetsk region lives under daily shelling

    Life under fire

    АвторAuthor: Kateryna Bankova | Translation: Hanna Dzhyhaliuk

    15 September 2022

    Anastasiia and her family live in Opytne, a suburb of Bakhmut. This is a front-line zone, where shelling was heard from time to time for 8 years. Now the situation is much more complicated: the region has been without water, electricity and gas for several months. The woman, along with her husband and daughter, got evacuated, but her parents and grandmother decided to stay. Anastasiia shared her story with “Monologues of the War.”

    February 24th was a weekday, I was taking my child to school. Suddenly, my daughter tells me that they are writing something in the school chat: they say, we don’t have to go to class today. By the way, we live in the suburbs, and we take her to Bakhmut to school. I open a parental chat on my Viber, and indeed, they say that no one will take the children to classes. While I was reading the messages, I received a call from the director of my work: “Nastya, you don’t need to come today, the war has started.” “What?”

    February 23rd is my birthday. My colleagues and I went out together after the shift to celebrate. On that day, they shelled Zelenopillya, which is not far from Opytne, where we live. We discussed this topic then, and could not understand what was happening.

    No, we already knew what the war was like. We live in the front-line zone. We have already heard the explosions, we have heard the banging, rumbling. We have been used to this since 2014.

    And we were also fired upon. We were hiding in the basements, and laid a mattress in the bathtub and put the child in there so that, just in case, she could survive. Once my mother and I were planting a vegetable garden, when the shelling began. We are gardening, and shells are flying above us. I say: “Mom, let’s probably go inside.”

    Most of us are against russia. One thing if shelling started just now, but we have seen them for 8 years. And we could perfectly see where it was flying from. We understand everything very well.

    Ruined kindergarten

    Kindergarten. Photo by local residents

    What I mean is, the war is not a surprise for us, but we, of course, could not even imagine that it would take on such a scale. Then there was no such thing as no water or electricity. It was possible to live our daily lives. Now everything is completely different, it’s scary to simply go outside. And the explosions can no longer be heard in the distance, but nearby. This is terrible. I’m afraid not so much for myself, but for my child.

    “We hoped that everything would soon be over”

    At the beginning of the war there was panic. They stopped restocking grocery stores. There was a shortage of fuel, there was no gasoline or gas. The bread factory was closed, and it meant that there would be no bread. Then the head of the village organized the free delivery of bread to the village twice a week. By the way, they still bring it. Not always successfully, but still. There was panic, but people did not rush to leave. To be honest, neither did I. We left on April 8, when shelling became more frequent. We stayed in Odesa for a while, they told us that it was already calm at home, and we returned back. We hoped that everything would soon be over. We lasted exactly one month there. My parents persuaded us to leave again, after all, we have a child. This time the departure was horrible. Pokrovsk was heavily shelled. We drove as fast as we could. There, the road is bad, full of potholes, it is impossible to go fast. You drive and see missiles fly above. Miraculously we were not hurt. We saw many damaged cars on the road. We reached Odesa in two days.

    We did not even consider going abroad. First, I was born here, I want to live in Ukraine. Secondly, my husband cannot cross the borders, and I definitely don’t want to go anywhere without him. And my husband’s mother is also in Odesa. We want to stick together, it’s easier that way.

    “So quiet that it’s terrifying”

    My parents and my grandmother stayed in the Donetsk region. My dad can’t walk well, my grandma is bedridden. We offered them to leave as well, but they flatly refused. “If we die, then it better be at home,” said my grandmother. There has been no water there for a long time, no electricity, no gas either. They collect water from a fountain, which was set up not far away. Phones are charged from a generator. There is no normal network, when we can finally talk, it is only for a few seconds: “We are alive and healthy, everything is fine.” I called recently, and my mother picked up the phone and said that she can’t talk at the moment. I understand that they are being shelled there right now: there is no signal in the house, so you can’t talk there, and you can’t go outside because of explosions. They shoot every day. Mom told me that there was a time when it was so quiet all day that it was terrifying. She even went outside and sat on a bench. They are living at our place now, as their house does not have a basement, but ours does. During shelling, they go there. My grandma can’t do it, so they put a folding chair in the hallway for her, and she sleeps there – after all, it’s safer than in the apartment. There was a huge hole in the yard, the blast wave broke the windows. The windows at my parents’ home were also broken, and the roof was also damaged there.

    At first I sent them parcels, but now the post office does not work there. Many volunteers refuse to go there because there is serious shelling there. The situation is extremely difficult.

    I recently found out that people were killed by shelling in our village. I knew them, they were young. I was shocked. My parents didn’t tell me about it. I asked why they didn’t tell me, and they said, “We didn’t want to upset you.”

    “We just became friends, and she’s leaving tomorrow”

    Before the war, I worked as a chief accountant in a utility company. I still work there, sometimes I need to do some tasks remotely. I have a daughter, Kira, she is 9 years old. She finished the 3rd grade. Her school isn’t there anymore – it was bombed.

    Kira is a very artistic child, she was into acting, singing and drawing. She is very mature for her age. Let’s just say, she had to grow up quickly. When she hears the siren, she immediately reacts. “Let’s run!”. At home, she hid in the corridor on pillows. And she hugged our dog, to protect him. She is sociable, open, and she quickly found friends in Odesa. But such are the times now, many people are leaving. My child comes up to me and says: “We just became friends, and she is leaving the city tomorrow.”

    “Every “thank you”, every smile are very motivating” 

    I went to receive humanitarian aid at the volunteering center “Hostynna khata” and now I am also a volunteer there. My husband and I both work there. We help people as much as we can. I understand those who have lost everything. I went through all this myself. They used to have everything, but now there is literally nothing to eat. What surprised me in Odesa is that apartments are rented out without dishes, without pillows, blankets. I’m used to the fact that all this should be in a rented apartment. We provide grocery sets, dishes, bed linen, hygiene products. We try to support them. We used to cry together, and now we are trying to hold ourselves together. People are different. Someone takes our work for granted. They do not understand that most of the center’s volunteers are just like them. But for the most part, people are very grateful. And every “thank you”, every smile are very motivating.

    Registration of displaced people

    Anastasiia registers displaced people. Photo from the archive of “Hostynna khata”

    We work 6 days a week absolutely free of charge. Of course, sometimes we can take days off. We do not have specific tasks. Today I can register the displaced people, or guests, as we say, tomorrow pack cereals and vegetables, and the day after tomorrow sort things. I do what needs to be done. Sometimes I take my laptop with me to do some tasks at work. But it is difficult, there is no connection at all. As soon as it appears, they call me and say what needs to be done. And so I distract myself from volunteering and do this. But I am glad that I have little free time. I am constantly doing something, the whole day is scheduled. If I didn’t work, I would go crazy.

    Read also: Russians steal a toilet. A fighter from “Azov” told us about what he has seen in enemy positions

    I have no plans, I just really want to go home. Even if there is nothing there. I am ready to rebuild everything. I’m ready to work two jobs, but I still want to go home.

    Чому важливо поширити цю історію?
    Якщо українці не розповідатимуть свій погляд на війну в Україні, світ поступово забуватиме про нас. Натомість цим обов’язково скористаються росіяни. Тому не даймо їм жодного шансу.

    Why is it important to share this story?
    If Ukrainians do not share their views on the war in Ukraine, the world will gradually forget about us. Instead, the Russians will definitely take advantage of this. So let's not give them a chance.

    АвторAuthor: Kateryna Bankova | Translation: Hanna Dzhyhaliuk

    Life under fire

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