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Stories that you confided to us

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Marina

‘Our granny stayed while there was shelling there, and we could not come back’

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‘For me, the war means...’

leaving home, probably, this is the first thing that comes to mind.

When did the war in Donbass begin for you?

I remember how my mother could not go to work. It was scary to go to Donetsk to work. It was May 2014. Some unrest and protest actions already started. The organisation where I had some part-time job was considering relocating to Kharkiv, while I did not plan to go to Kharkiv. So, we left to Dniprodzerzhynsk [Kamianske after renaming] to search for some employment. As soon as we left, Yasynuvata came under shelling. Our granny stayed. My mum and I left. Our friend helped us leave... Our granny stayed while there was shelling there, and we could not come back until October when they arranged railway transportation through Kostiantynivka.

Did you happen to see military actions with your own eyes?

Yes, I did.

How was it? Could you tell us?

The most vivid memory is when we went to Slovyansk in December 2014 to work at some pottery factory. Because there was some lodging there, only because of that. In the settlement where my granny and mother lived, shelling started. So, I went to them.

There was no electricity, no water. We brought water from the well and had to go to the station to charge mobile phones; there were violent explosions around. I remember that on that day, my mum was at work and was travelling to Yasynuvata. The granny and I were sitting in the room without windows. On that day, my music teacher was killed; her legs were cut.

There was another shelling after some time. I went to charge my phone and our neighbour, an elderly lady, wanted to go to charge her phone too. I offered to charge it for her as I was going there anyway and promised to bring her phone on the way back. She went home while I went to charge the phones. There were no locals at the station on that day, only station personnel.

Then came a railcar with some workers and a woman. People were going around the station; the shots seemed distant. I got inside the railway station. The moment I got in, people who were there rushed towards me. A man with broken legs — he died within half an hour. There was a guy with face shrapnel wounds; he was getting help. People were getting valerian drops.

A call from a friend saved me. It delayed me for a couple of seconds. Then the shelling was over, and my mother came running when she heard the explosion. (My mum passed away in November 2015).

I came back to our elderly neighbour and told her what had happened. She lent me UAH 500 so I could leave. She also persuaded my granny and my mum to leave because it became clear that we should not stay after that incident. We left for Slovyansk.

Do you plan to come back home when the war is over?

I would have to do a huge repair at home. I am not sure that I could afford it and not sure that it is worth it. There is no employment there. Some trade existed until the border was closed. Many people used to go through our village, and purchased houses for USD 2,000, at a bargain price, only to be able to cross the border as the house would allow registering the place of residence on our side.

Our village is a buffer zone, many used it to deliver goods. People used to come from Yasynuvata, Donetsk to buy some things cheaper, or register some documents. For that, they used this village. Until it was in demand, there was some trade, and people could live from this. The trade is at a minimal level now.    

How has the war changed your life?

It has brought losses. First of all, the loss of home. Loss of stability. You do not know what would happen tomorrow, and you understand that stability could be taken away at any moment.

Tell us please how the war affected your everyday life.

It is difficult to find a job, only some side work. I have almost no official work records.

Do you feel safe now?

No, not fully.

What stands in the way?

Prices are exorbitant. We have no housing of our own; we rent it. You do not know when you are going to have some work. So many things to consider now. If my granny is gone, I do not know what would happen. As long as the granny lives, there is some help. At least some stability because of her pension, some support. I have a child; my husband has the disability of the third group, and it is difficult for him to find a job.

What is happiness for you?

Happiness for me was the time when all my close ones were alive and healthy, and when you have a job you like. Some household needs, basic needs – we have never thought about them, have not appreciated how important they are.

Has your perception of life changed because of the war?

Not only because of the war, I believe. Because of my mother’s death. My mum decided to come back to work as she did not want to lose it while all those relocations from Slovyansk to Yasynuvata affected her health. She had a heart attack when she was going to work. Most likely, it is because of the stress she suffered.

When you are not at home, you cannot sleep properly. When you sleep at your place, for some reason, you get a good sleep to restore yourself. While at rented places, regardless of how many we have had, I cannot sleep properly to have a good rest and relax fully. Home will be home. At least, for me.

What did you learn while overcoming all those difficulties you told us about?

I’d like to say that I learned to survive but I am not sure that I really learned it. I think I learned not to judge, as you understand that anyone can find him/herself in any situation.  

When quoting a story, a reference to the source – the Museum of Civilian Voices of the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation – is mandatory, as follows:

The Museum of Civilian Voices of the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation https://civilvoicesmuseum.org/

Rinat Akhmetov Foundation Civilian Voices Museum
Sloviansk 2014 Text Civilian's stories women 2014 shelling safety and life support poor
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