АвторAuthor: Lidia Bilyk | Translation: Violeta Shenkariuk
8 July 2022
During the events of 2014, Vadim (the name was changed due to security reasons) was only eleven years old. Despite his young age, the boy remembered what his native Donetsk was like “before” and “after” the occupation with the subsequent formation of a pseudo-republic there. With the beginning of the full-scale war of russia against Ukraine, Vadym was almost mobilized into the ranks of the army of the so-called DPR. (DPR or Donetsk People’s Republic is a terrorist entity on the territory occupied by the russian federation in certain districts of the Donetsk region of Ukraine). Due to mass forced mobilization, the city was deserted. According to the guy, during the day, in the center of the city, a maximum of three people go, and everyone is sitting at home.
I have a pro-Ukrainian position. I know that killings, poor conditions, and hatred are only symptoms, and the disease itself is the deployment of russian troops and the seizure of power in Donetsk. If this had not happened, there would have been no victims.
Since the winter of 2014, events on the Maidan have been shown on TV. I was not interested in it at all, I was a child. I remember that at the beginning of the spring of the same year, a large pro-Ukrainian rally was held on Artema Street, near the Olympic Stadium. Then, whether it was shots or something else was heard, I won’t say for sure, and people started running away.
In May, I have already seen the occupation of the RSA (Regional State Administration). People in masks also didn‘t worry me, I just didn’t understand what was happening, I remember that there were russian flags on the streets.
At the end of the school year, we were playing football at school when some explosions started. My mother took me home and bought a lot of groceries. Airplanes flew in my area, my mother did not allow me to go to the windows, because the helicopter could be seen and the automatic gunfire could be heard. As we lived on the central street, along Universitetskaya, we decided to temporarily move to my mother’s friend, who lived in a more distant place, between the courtyards. In those yards, the boys had already managed to collect a lot of shell casings.
In the summer, artillery and MLRS (multiple launch rocket systems, — ed.) could already be heard. That’s how it all started. At that time, they already freely talked about the fact that people could be beaten or even killed for Ukrainian symbols. I know that if russia had not sent troops, the DPR would not have existed.
I cannot describe in words how much better it used to be, and how good it would be if this did not happen (referring to the occupation of Donetsk by russia, — ed.). I was taken to the dolphinarium, I often went to football in “Donbasarena”, went to basketball, even once to hockey, and went to the aquapark. The beauty is such: fountains with lanterns in the form of a dandelion, there were a lot of cars on the streets. You go to school and the trolley bus is full, you could hear foreigners talking on the streets. Even those who did not speak russian or spoke with an accent, and foreigners studied with us in elementary school. There were many flowers on the flowerbeds, and Pushkin Boulevard was very beautiful. I read about Donetsk that it used to be in the first place among developing cities.
“People are taught to hate everything Ukrainian”.
Education in Donetsk is very bad. Some can not go to school for six months and then receive certificates without triples. By the way, we were transferred to a 5-point system. All tests and exams can be written off, and what’s more, the teachers themselves help and give answers. Every year, we held several “patriotic events”, where they told us what a strong nation we are and that no one “brought us to our knees”. For going to such events, grades were promised, or they threatened that if you didn’t go, you wouldn’t graduate from school.
We studied the history of russia. There was neither the history of Ukraine nor the history of the DPR. I finished eleven classes. DPR diplomas are not recognized anywhere, except maybe in russia. People are taught to hate everything Ukrainian, that any association with Ukraine is treason. Since the year before last, the native language is no longer taught in schools.
Actually, I talked to a lot of people here. It is very difficult for people who cannot help, but they are for Ukraine.
The male part of the citizens tries not to go out once more. I also was almost mobilized. I came to the university, and I was taken with a summons to the district military unit. I asked my mom to send my medical documents just in case I have some health problems. Just so you understand, there was a mobilized guy next to me with glasses as thick as the lenses on a telescope, and the other one has epilepsy according to the documents.
All of them are forcibly registered as volunteers and threatened with a criminal case. I heard that several people have already tried for so-called desertion, but I cannot confirm this information yet. They take passports from people who were caught on the street and give them back only when they come to the military unit.
I know stories from fellow students that the mobilized are not told where they will be sent, phones are banned, they promise to feed them every other day or two. Everything else is at your own expense. And this is not an exaggeration, it is true. Donetsk is completely empty, I walk in the center during rush hour and see a maximum of three people. Many of my fellow students are sitting at home.
Acquaintances say that it is scary to yield oneself prisoner. You will either be shot in the back or blown up on a mine. And there may be a criminal case in Ukraine for collaborationism. But this is generally a horror and it is not very clear: whether to sit or die.
“In the call center where I work, I often get complaints about the Ukrainian pronunciation of words”.
I noticed that people from the outskirts say “we were bombed for eight years” less often than people from the center who have never been bombed. In the call center where I work, I often receive complaints about the Ukrainian pronunciation of words, because of the soft letter “g”, etc. And when they tell me about it, I hear exactly the same accent. You know, if a person is from Donbas and she is pro-russian, you will not be able to prove anything to this person. No matter how hard you try, it’s impossible. People have not been to Ukraine since 2014, they saw it on russian channels, where they say that everything is bad in Ukraine.
Vadim says that the reasonable rule in Donetsk is not to discuss politics until you know who is for whom: “Our people simply do not talk about this topic. First, you need to find out what kind of person is in front of you, who he supports and make sure that he will not tell anyone about you to anyone who does not need to”.
I am very interested in politics and history, I read various news. I’m used to having to check information. Previously, before the checkpoints were closed, I often visited Ukraine. I went to Lviv, Kyiv, Dnipro, Berdyansk. I was also in Poland. Part of my family lives in Ukraine, my father lived in Volnovakha, before the city was completely destroyed, and other relatives live in Kurakhivka, which is beyond Maryinka.
The majority of young people in Donetsk want to live in Ukraine, want to be free. All young people here have Ukrainian birth certificates. There are those who support pseudo-republics, but these are mostly those whose parents are soldiers, or just stupid people who believe in propaganda.
I have a pro-Ukrainian position. I know that killings, poor conditions and hatred are only symptoms, and the disease itself is the deployment of russian troops and the seizure of power in Donetsk. If this had not happened, there would have been no victims.
If Ukraine recaptured Donbas, the pro-russians would run away in fear, they are used to being silent in such situations. I think it would be a great event.
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: Lidia Bilyk | Translation: Violeta Shenkariuk