Stories that you confided to us

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Stories that you confided to us

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Liubov Hudynets
age: 50
"Pensioners did not go to the basements. They said, "We are awaiting our fate"

She has lived in the village for almost 50 years, but never thought she would have to go through this. The whole village calls each other after the shelling attack. Svetlana always checks whether the residents of the street she lives in need help at such moments.

We have a nearby street that suffered the most-there are only 3 whole houses left out of 15. The rest are completely destroyed. There were only three pensioners left there. They are old, so there is nowhere to go.

I have lived in this village [in Slavne] for almost 50 years. I was born in Donetsk. My parents moved here in 1970, when I was six months old. All my children and grandchildren are here. We get by.

How was life before? We went to Olenivka on foot, because there was no work here. All collective farms closed down. We took a bus from Olenivka and went to work in Donetsk. My salary at the plant was 3500 UAH. It was not much, but it was stable, at least. I had a job, a store. And now there is no store and no work left.

I live off my daughter, who gets child  benefits. Three and a half thousand UAH. So many people remain here. We have to go to Novomykhailivka to buy bread. There is no other option. 

Pensioners did not go to the basements. They said,

We have a nearby street that suffered the most-there are only 3 whole houses left out of 15. The rest are completely destroyed. There were only three pensioners left there. They are old, so there is nowhere to go. Three houses are intact on our street, and the rest are all destroyed. Younger residents left with their children. Children need to go to school, but there are no conditions here.

There were a lot of children in the village — about 150. Now there are only four pupils and five toddlers. And two more little infants were born here - four years old and six months old. And only 48 adults remained for the entire village. There is no bus, people have to hire taxis, cars and take their children to school in the neighboring village of Novomykhailivka.

Pensioners did not go to the basements. They said,

"I thought that this can happen only in the movies"

I worked in Donetsk at a meat processing plant. And when it all started, I didn't watch much TV, because I went to work at three in the morning and came at 11:00 p.m. There was no time for news. And then girls at work started sharing some news. I thought that this can happen only in the movies.

In 2014, on 30 September, the Ukrainian military came to our village. At first, the relationship between the military and the local population was more or less agreeable. Neither good nor bad. And then one day a military commander died tragically here. Then we saw some turmoil among the military. However, nobody told us anything. And we would not know what was happening. Then they told us to gather up.

Do all residents gathered, thinking that it was concerning some announcements or curfew changes. And then, one of them would shout, "You, separatists, you are.. Admit that you did this?! Our commander was killed because of you. I am going to finish you right here, right now!" It's a blessing that another soldier came up and said, "What are you doing? What does it have to do with these people?"

Pensioners did not go to the basements. They said,

Everyone was shocked. It was so horrible. It was good that only adults were present at the meeting. Just imagine if our children were with us! My daughter and her children stayed at home. I came home, and she asked, "Mom, what happened? Look at yourself in the mirror." I said, "Oh my, I turned grey, but I'm not the only one. Everyone there was terrified. They got turned grey." And then no matter how many military men came to us, people were already wary of them.

Since October 2014, attacks have become more frequent and continued until March 2015. We were told by the military: as soon as you hear the whistle, immediately run to the basements. Some did that if that managed to do that. Others just hid behind the wall. It was so abnormal, and we didn't understand it. Here the granddaughter took care of her 96-year-old grandmother. Grandmother didn't even know it was war. She heard something was rambling somewhere. And  granddaughter said, "Yes, it's an air-craft flying." So as not to upset her.

When shells started falling, they even hit the houses. At first, it was very wild, then we got used to it.

Once a guy burned to death in the village. It was probably a shell, and it hit the wire. Everything sparkled instantly... I saw fireworks, like something was crackling. I ran out, there were a lot of people. The military immediately called firefighters, but the man was burned alive. The house was made of beams. All wood burned down. It was a shock, of course. 

Pensioners did not go to the basements. They said,

I have a neighbor, living next door. A shell hit the electric meter. It whipped it out and smashed through the wall. Two of our families were badly injured, they were hit by a shell in a barn. They kept a household, and it burned alive. It was a shock, of course. I feel sorry for the cattle, too. There were fires. The extinguished them. But this is because of the dry autumn grass. Two houses burned down. However, thanks to the military — they helped put out the fire.

"After the attacks, we ran to our homes to see if everyone was alive"

They were shooting from 7:00 a.m. to 12 p.m. Then from 8:00 p.m. to 12 a.m. I happened twice a day. We prayed to God that it would all be over soon. After the attacks, younger active residents ran over pensioners. Are all alive and well? Offered water or pills?

Once we even recorded the time. They bombarded for an hour and twenty minutes. Then in the evening or at night, for for hour and twenty minutes, two hours. When people want to lie down on the couch, sleep, and they are woken up in the middle of the night, forced to hide in the basement. So you run in complete darkness with a candle in your hands. Then it  goes out. Someone we would hide with a lighter or a match. I have a cellar in the house, and many people have basements on the street, in the backyard. We need to get there. However, you never know if you'll make it.

Pensioners did not go to the basements. They said, "We are awaiting our fate" The way to the basement took some time. Besides, it is hard for elderly people, you might trip and fall. They would say, "Whatever happens, happens.

"We thought that it would take two or three days.

Olenivka is six kilometers from us. It is the territory of the DPR. Our village was completely closed. There was no entry or exit. We could only go to a neighboring village with the permission of the military leadership and buy bread and water. And we had to return home, for example, in winter at 4:00 p.m, that is, during daylight hours. It gets dark very early in winter (5:00 p.m.), and the entry was closed. We had to go back to the neighboring village of Novomykhailivka. Some stayed with friends or relatives for the night. Then the next day they went to their home.

You could stay in your own yard. The military said that it is better to return home until two o'clock, so that then we do not run. In case of sudden attacks – to be closer to the house, closer to the basements. We were given only an hour of daylight to bring water from a well.

We don't let children out of the yard. The fields around the village are all mined. Trip wires are everywhere. Children are allowed to play only in the yard or quickly bring water. Along the path and back home. Not a step to the left, not a step to the right.

We had no light at all for a year and a half. We used candles. It was terrible. Especially in winter. It gets dark quickly, and those with small children can't even warm up some porridge or some other food. It was difficult. Stocks that were accumulated during a good life – firewood, coal, they were heated in the winter. In March 2016, electricity was restored.

We thought that it would take two or three days. And it has lasted for five years.

Pensioners did not go to the basements. They said,

"Documents are not the most valuable thing. The most important thing is to have water"

We have a training ground here now. Stencil-plate are placed here. The military are coming for training. Our children are still scared. As soon as they hear the sound of gunshots, they automatically run to the basements and shout, "Mother, mother, rush to the basement!" It is more of a reflex now during this time.

Little kids don't really understand, but those who are already 8, 10, 14 years old, try to hide as fast as they can and take something with them. It's not the same as before. They told us to run to the basement and take documents. But no. Documents are no longer considered particularly valuable. The main thing is to have water. This is the most important. Someone took a toy with them to the basement. 

It's more or less quiet now. Everyone who left the place want to return. but there is nowhere to go back to. Houses are destroyed. Foundations are demolished. We need to rebuild everything.

You go to Kurakhove, and there many people do not know what war is, they do not understand. Sometimes, when you say that you need to go to the pension, social security department, or tax office without waiting in line, you say that we are from there... And they answer, "What are you talking about? You have seen too many movies." They do not understand...

"God endured and told us to do so"

In 2015 – 2016, we received humanitarian aid from Rinat Akhmetov. The Red Cross helped as well. I am very grateful to Rinat Akhmetov. If it wasn't for this help, I don't know how we would have survived. People were happy. Everyone was shocked. They were grateful. They still don't forget us. It's hard for us. You have to go to the next village to buy food. A drive to Mikhailivka costs 75 UAH. I am unemployed. Pensioners receive a stable pension. They hire a car and say, "Okay, I'll buy you bread, you don't have to pay for the road."

I would like everything to get better. I know that it will never be as it was before. But at least, we had stability and there was no war. I dream of work. There is no work, there is no life. Well, we will go on. Others give birth to children and smile. It is hard, but they keep smiling. We all the saying — "God endured and told us to do the same." That is how we live.

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