Stories that you confided to us

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Stories that you confided to us

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Yana Bazykina
age: 31
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"It seemed like a nightmare, and we haven't woken up from it yet"

The Donetsk citizens say now that 26 May 2014 is the day that changed us forever… And I, as a native Donetsk resident living in Donetsk all my life before military actions, can't disagree with this.

The most terrible consequence of the armed conflict for me is that my family and friends live in different cities and even countries now. The customary communication and meetings are gone. Now I have to pass through checkpoints, queues, document checks, and sometimes questioning (i.e., purpose and place of my arrival) just to see my parents. 

It seemed like a nightmare, and we haven't woken up from it yet

When civil disturbances began in Donetsk, I could not even imagine that this would turn into a military conflict lasting almost six years. 

I remember how armed men wearing military uniforms, tanks and military equipment began to appear on the streets of the city. But then it seemed like a dream that would soon end. Unfortunately, we still haven't woken up…

Before the armed conflict began, I did not know or understand the definitions of the Grad system, mortars, or Smerch multiple rocket launcher. Unfortunately, like millions of my fellow citizens, I had to find that out. 

I do not know whether it is correct or appropriate to say this, but in some respects I had a privilege because I lived in the Center  of Donetsk on Naberezhna Street and thankfully I was lucky enough not to see the real destruction from shells. In general, only volleys of incoming and shooting shells were heard in the Center . This also left an imprint.

When the armed conflict began, I was working as a lawyer in the Land Administration of the Donetsk City Council. I loved my work and the team I worked with. Due to the outbreak of military actions, many citizens had to leave, but those who remained continued to go to work. 

They stopped paying our salaries in July 2014, but we still kept on working. Everyone expected this to be over soon... Time passed by, and the situation got worse.

I remember that one day some armed men broke into our building located on Maria Ulyanova Street and said that we now are placed under their command (although we continued to work under Ukrainian law). It was scary.

Every day we were searched at entrance/exit so as to make us unable to take out any documents. This continued until November 2014 when the "new government" finally set up in the city. It goes without saying that I did not come down to their side. Thus, I lost my job.

"We didn't notice the shootings any more. We got used to them…"

By that time I was used to living under constant volleys of shells. The city went quiet only occasionally.

Those who spent all the time in Donetsk and do not leave anywhere, stood out against the background of those who spent the beginning of the armed conflict on peaceful territory. I remember how in August 2014 there was a bombarding on the Kalinin Hospital, which was located near my house.

It happened early in the morning. I was sleeping at home peacefully and my mother was walking the dog on the street. Having got used to constant volleys, we didn't even notice that there was a shooting nearby.

And only the neighbours from our entrance hall who just returned to the city pointed that out. They went down to the general basement to out of fear wait out the attack. And we have been living like this for months with the numbed sense of fear.

I remember armed men running under my windows and firing into the air, shouting, "Quickly go home!" I will never forget the bright flashes from the Grad shootings that I watched from my room window. I couldn't sleep that day, I prayed to God that there would be no further response...

I also remember how we taped all the windows together so they wouldn't shatter into small pieces from the explosion. The "bug-out bag" was in my room to be taken in case of an emergency evacuation. 

My city is the city of a million roses blooming in the summer of 2014 seemed to have died. Almost no one was left on the streets. You could cross the road without keeping head on a swivel because there were almost no cars on the road.

19 January 2015. Baptism. On this day, my mother and I went to bless water in the church on Artem Street. Since night time, the city began was shaking from powerful volleys - every district was restless. 

The church was crowded with people. We all stood to the sounds of shooting shells. Everyone seemed to be praying for one thing - this horror to be finally over.

"The best birthday gift is not to get the shell fly into your home"

The 20th January is my birthday. I was born at 12:10 a.m., so I always stay awake at this time. However, despite all my efforts to sleep, I could not do it on 20 January 2015. The city was attacked heavily - windows were ringing, my heart was beating so fast that I only thought about one thing: not to be hit by a shell. That was the best birthday gift – to have your house whole and your family safe and sound.

On 2 February, I had to leave my home city. I didn't want to leave Donetsk until the last moment. I did believe that everything would soon be all right. 

By this time, almost all of my friends had already left for peaceful cities and started living their lives there. My brother and his wife left for Kharkiv in July 2015. Early on they lived with relatives and eventually purchased their own house. My brother hasn't been home ever since. 

My grandmother, who stayed with my mother in Donetsk, never saw my brother personally after that. My grandmother is a disabled person of group II, she has prosthetics on her legs, and she just won't make it to Kharkiv.

I will never forget the day I left my city. I sobbed while packing. In the morning, when my parents and I were loading things into the car, my dog started whining and crying. To leave the apartment, we had to close the dog in the room because he would not let us leave. It made my heart clench even more. 

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My dog

I cried all the way to Zaporizhzhia. I remember how some military men asked me at the checkpoint in Bohatyr if I was all right, and I just smiled through my tears. 

Arriving in Zaporizhzhia, I thought that I would stay here for six months and then return home. However, 2 February 2020 was five years since I have been living here, and I do not know how much longer I will have to live here. That's the worst part. Leaving home, I realized how beautiful Donetsk is even more. Everything in my city is well-ordered and gentrifying. That, unfortunately, cannot be said about other cities in Ukraine.

"The mark "from Donetsk " got stuck for a long time"

The first months of life in Zaporizhzhia were difficult with no friends or relatives around. To put it mildly, many people took me not like everyone else due to my registration. 

I was registered at the employment Center . I remember that in May 2015 I was sent for a job interview to one of the district council offices. I have worked in the Donetsk City Council for three years based on my professional background. But my experience and skill were uninteresting after they found out that I was from Donetsk. I was told directly, "We did not tell you anything, but we cannot employ you with your registration." 

The mark "from Donetsk" stuck in our society for a long time. When searching for another apartment, landlords refused to even view the housing because of my registration many times.

Every Donbass resident who has left for peaceful territory has faced such problems. This is very sad, because society has unreasonably put a mark on us, having watched enough TV. 

In June 2015, I was employed at an LLC that moved to Zaporizhzhia after the beginning of military actions. This was a kind of relief for me to stay away from home, because at that time 90% of those who came with the company from Donetsk worked for the company. And who, if not a townman, will find common ground with you, will understand your what it is like to be "a Donetsk citizen"? 

"I believe that my native city of Donetsk will be filled with happiness"

The most terrible consequence of the armed conflict for me is that my family and friends live in different cities and even countries now. The customary communication and meetings are gone. Now I have to pass through checkpoints, queues, document checks, and sometimes questioning (i.e., purpose and place of my arrival) just to see my parents. 

I cannot visit my family at any time I want, because this journey takes a very long time. And I worry every day that they are safe and sound, because I cannot help distantly.

Every time I see the streets of Donetsk, I am filled with tears of happiness and great pain at the same time, because such a disaster has come to my house that has lasted for almost six years.

Deep down I do believe that one day this nightmare will end and my city will blossom again, filled with happiness.

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