On Monday, 26 May 2014, – the day that was the beginning of an end. It was the end of my old life in my home town, and the end of a peaceful and prosperous city of Donetsk.
It's been almost six years, but I can still remember every attack I came under. I remember every sleepless night. I can describe the day when it all started in detail, without missing a thing.
It is a common fact that all the "activities" started near the Donetsk Airport, where my grandmother resided at that time. My mother and I lived in the private sector quite close to the center, in the urban settlement of Putilovka around a five-kilometer zone.
As early as in 2014, there was not a single still-standing house in our settlement. Ours got fired in the middle of autumn.
That morning was a usual morning. My mother went to work (she is a teacher), and my friend and I went to the shopping Center . A few hours later, my mother called and said that something was happening in our area: frightened parents were taking their children out of school. There were some aircrafts in the air
For some reason, I did not pay much attention to my mother's words. However, a couple of hours later, when I was standing at the bus stop going home, I noticed something was wrong. Everyone around looked worried, and after the ambulance drove by, they became even more agitated. "An ambulance is a common thing to see," I thought, unaware what was going on.
When I was on my way in a marshrutka (I was once again convinced of the rather strange behavior of everyone around me) - a KAMAZ truck full of soldiers with machine guns drove past us.
I got off at my stop. The roadway was almost empty. Only one black car with someone talking with a megaphone was going back and forth, but I couldn't make out what was being said. About ten minutes later, I could not see any transport stop at my stop at all.
My house was within a stone throw, but when I started walking towards it I noticed that, at first, people were coming towards me and then running and saying, "You can't go through there. You can't go there! Run away quickly - there will be a massacre all over Kyivskyi Avenue soon!"
So I started running. My throat was so dry with excitement that it was hard to breathe. While I was running, I heard some shots. They seemed to be coming from everywhere. I did not take any notice of them, because I was wondering, "How do I get home?"
The black car was still driving along the road, and the loudspeaker was saying, "Everyone, please, go home and get out of the carriageway."
All this time I tried to call my mother or someone to clarify the situation and figure out what to do, but to no avail. There were no communications at all: you dial a number and get dropped immediately.
I left the road and made another attempt to walk to my house through the courtyards, but I was stopped again. They said that I am not allowed to go there.
People were passing by: some were praying, some were just increasing up their pace. Then I stopped in one of the courtyards in despair and didn't know what to do.
At this point a woman looked out of the window of the first floor of an apartment building. She saw that I was standing alone and offered to come by. She was evacuated from her place of employment, and she and her little daughter were waiting for her husband to leave the city together. I stayed at her place for 15-20 minutes. Then my mother called me. She came home from work, and we went home together.
This time no one crossed our path. Apparently, everyone had already left, and there was no one on the street. We walked home safely. It was lunchtime. I told my mother about my adventures, calmed down and almost forgot about all the warnings I had heard in the morning.
In the evening, when it got dark, we we sitting in the kitchen, drinking tea. Suddenly we heard something like hail or, to be exact, it sounded like as if a huge bucket of hail poured into our yard. But we could not see anything outside the window.
The sounds did not die away from that moment until late at night. They were very various. It was clear that the shooting was coming not just from a machine gun. It was my first sleepless night to the sounds of war.
Not knowing what to do, I texted with my classmates and friends who lived nearby. We shared our experiences. They described their morning stories, and I realised that I was lucky. I spent time in this mode until two in the morning. Then the shooting stopped, and I was able to sleep.
From that day forth, the area from my stop to the airport became an exclusion zone. The road that was always overcrowded before was now empty, and shops, clinics, and other institutions stopped working. The number of abandoned houses gradually increased.
However, the closer we were to the Center , the more common life seemed there: transport was going, shops were functioning, people were walking along the streets, however, only for a short time.
This was the year I graduated from grade 11. I studied in a normal school near my home. Due to the military actions, a school assembly to celebrate the last bell was cancelled, as well as graduation ceremonies. Now this school is no longer there - it is ruined.
Looking back on this year, I can't help but mention something good:
- in view of the the attacks, public services had regular problems with on certain streets of the city, but everything was always repaired very quickly and brought back to normal;
- against the odds, more or less safe areas of the city and the Center continued to keep the streets clean, watered and watered the lawns.
I have already spoken of the first but not the last day of my wartime life, which was filled with horror, fear, and despair. The stories would be enough to write a whole book.
– when you try to go to the grocery store as quickly as possible so as not to be on the street if shooting has begun;
– when you hear a shooting attack, you have to go down to the basement with a heart in your throat, collect your things and leave. And when everything goes quiet, you don't even want to go up;
– when you understand that a mobile operator's response "the subscriber is currently unavailable" might actually be reason for concern;
– when you like thunderstorms, because you will definitely not hear the sound of shooting in this weather:
– when later you start a new life in another city and at first you shudder from the sounds of fireworks, and when you are asleep it seems that you are in your home bed, and everything is fine outside the window…
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/