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Vira, Viktor and Galyna (daughter), the Ponomarenko family

‘I was part of Donbass development movement. I got four medals as labour veteran. Whom was it for?’

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Vira Ponomarenko, 79 years old:

‘I was part of Donbass development movement. I got four medals as labour veteran. Whom was it for?’

I came to Donbass in 1955 by recruitment. I was involved in the development of Yasynuvata town. I was loading and carrying everything with my own hands. And Donetsk city too. I queued for 100 grams of bread after a working day. And sometimes I queued, but did not get anything. I just cannot explain to you what I went through. I was hungry and cold for days.

I was part of Donbass development movement. I got four medals as labour veteran. Whom was it for? It is very hard. I fell ill and suffered two strokes.

…I was sitting on the sofa and all this just fell upon me, just collapsed. I caught some hot [shell] fragments with my hands. Then it hit hard and I realized that it was a shellfire. I bent down and it collapsed upon me here, on this sofa. My daughter and my son-in-law were outside. They cleared the way and pulled me out from that debris.

Some people came, my son’s friends, his schoolmates came. They came and, I am thankful to them, helped us. They cleared it all and covered the roof. I am grateful to them, to those people for their help.

After that I could not hear well. I had some noise in my ears, some buzzing. But I can hear well now, more or less.

There are no windows. Only plastic film. The window in the bedroom remained though. And all of the rest was damaged. There is no ceiling in the house, just nothing.

Galyna Ponomarenko, daughter:

‘I was part of Donbass development movement. I got four medals as labour veteran. Whom was it for?’

The car was in the yard and when the shells fell it was damaged all over. You can see it all here, the wall collapsed, fell out. There was no roof. We repaired all this with other people’s help when all the shellfire passed, when everything calmed down more or less.

People just came to help as workforce, with their hands. People just gathered and did not ask for anything in return. Some young people, those who stayed here, they came and helped us. They came and covered the roof, closed some holes and openings with wooden boards and plastic film.

‘I was part of Donbass development movement. I got four medals as labour veteran. Whom was it for?’

It is cold. In winter, we had no door, nothing. It was just covered with blankets. Only later, the door was installed. They put it somehow, just to keep it warm inside. Well, you know what a house without doors and without windows is. It is cold there.

‘I was part of Donbass development movement. I got four medals as labour veteran. Whom was it for?’

Only the bricks remained there, which withstood it. Just these straw-in-clay bricks remained. This wall needs to be rebuilt. And where is the money to restore it? No one knows. Why? Because old people live here, who get their pension with pain and misery. We live similarly, getting little to nothing.

The draughts come from everywhere, from all the holes. It’s cold everywhere. It is almost not possible to stay in the house. In some 15 minutes our feet are frozen and we ourselves are frozen. The stove does not burn well, basically. Why? Because something broke after the shelling.

Vira Ponomarenko:

My husband used to walk too, he did walk, but after that shelling he became paralyzed. He cannot move his legs. His legs are twisted, he does not move them. He became very nervous too. He used to be a good old man…  I give him something to eat, but I cannot lift him up to put the pot. He gets nervous and I get nervous too. One of my arms is not functional…

Viktor Ponomarenko, 86 years old:

I am lying, and I cannot walk a meter. My legs just [fail], especially my left leg.

‘I was part of Donbass development movement. I got four medals as labour veteran. Whom was it for?’

Vira Ponomarenko:

I recollect my life. How I used to live and how I have to live now. I go out into the street sometimes. I walk and see someone. ‘How are you?’ I say: ‘I am good’. ‘And where are you going?’ – I say: ‘To the dance’ – ‘But how?’ – a soldier passes by. ‘And how are you going to dance with the sticks?’ And I show them how. They start laughing. ‘Good. How is life?’ – ‘Best of all’. Well, what shall I tell them? What shall I say? [As they say] for some people it is war, but it makes others rich.

I am waiting for a peaceful sky. I want peace. I don't want anything. If only we could have peace. Peace for the elderly, so that we could spend our life in peace, so that we could live quietly, not to be buried somewhere in the garden, as some were buried. I want to be buried in the cemetery. What do I need? I have nothing to wait for.

Galyna Ponomarenko, daughter:

God’s will that all this ends and that peace finally comes to Donbass, and everywhere. So that people realize that no one wants such a life, and it should not be as it is now.

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
Verkhnyotoretske 2016 Video Civilian's stories pensioners destroyed or damaged housing wounded shelling safety and life support health housing elderly (60+)
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