Luhansk diaries - 2. City, people and war 12/01/2015 15:12:08. Total views 1531. Views today — 0.

The most distinctive for me is that Luhansk is alive during the day. Since last July I haven’t returned home after seven in the evening. No reason to go somewhere and judging by the silence outside in the evenings no one in my street finds such reasons. I don’t go to the cinema or a concert as before, I do not sit with friends in a cafe, I do not go to the countryside. I do not walk into all-day stores, because they simply do not exist any longer. But in our city there are a lot of blooming roses, the entire main street is planted with them. Of course, it pleases and surprises. Now, in the green season, greenery hides abandoned apartments, hammered with plywood windows, knocked down with missile balconies, burned buildings. And now for a few seconds you might think that it is a former town and former life.

Electric transport stopped working because of lack of light. A few months ago the trolley and two tram route were launched. But this is not life, but it is only its visibility. On the tram tracks near my house there is a fire and a little further broken wires hang. All my life twice per hour an old tram, full of local people, were going on these old tracks.

No, I do not live in a dead city, it’s full of life. There are cafés and restaurants, not many, but for those who have something to spend, that's enough.

In the central library storeroom the hole from the shellfire is bricked in, and it works again. The Philharmonic hall works again, only during the day but still.

For the youth the city as a place of walking hasn’t changed in general. The time of these walks has shifted and shortened due to curfew. You will be able to do everything that you loved and had done before the war - a haircut, beauty services, it's all there. Metro doesn’t work. Almost according to King on the square near it there is an abandoned trolley, which nobody takes away. The remaining Epicenter has become Stroycenter and the network of family restaurants Mafia are canteens for soldiers. Yes, this is important, the Ukraina cinema is now Rus cinema. In the Gratsiya underwear factory there is a military unit, and the remnants of fabric pieces are used as disposable wipes.

If you are visual, you will miss billboards and advertising. There are few political advertisements, greetings from past holidays and still visible pictures of the past. On opening stores you can see happy printed "We work !!!!!". I think the owners of these shops wrote this joyful call for themselves, confirming that they managed to open. Bread is sold in the Soyuzpechat kiosks. Empty cans and broken ATMs. Nationalized private property.

There is a lot of equipment, many cars without license plates, and numerous military in the city. This is familiar. They travel in public transport, they return from their leave warrants, they tell their drunken friends about the heroics.

You can easily see a racing APC or a tank, heavy equipment, the whole column. This is also a fragment of the modern city. There are dents from caterpillar belts on the roads.

As in the theater house with only one facade and propped boards at the back post offices work here to carry out the delivery of parcels on the territory of LPR. We have banks that give social benefits and pensions, near which there is a live queue of people waiting for a pension or allowance. In these queues you can easily die but not fall because nowhere.

Many beggars. Many beggars ask for money in the rush hours. Many people with empty tired eyes and much bitter "What did you fight for? Get it!".

You don’t need to get used to the lack of communication in Luhansk and region. Wild and primitive conditions ways of communication are very familiar to all since last summer, when the city was "left"  not only without electricity, but also all types of communications, including local telephone service. To contact with someone, make a call was like a dangerous quest, which was often at stake of your own life. We passed information in a chain: there is connection at Kolos, near the burned Epicenter, on the roofs of multi-storey buildings. People knew these well-shelled places but still went. Armed people broke them up very often. The roadway of Smolenska Street near the Absolut supermarket, full of people with mobile phones was a spectacle that was like a film about the Apocalypse. My neighbour called sitting near the chimney on the roof, the connection was interrupted all the time, but he was happy. The whole street was listening to his broadcasts. To charge a phone in the complete absence of electricity is another story.

Everyone, who survived the blockade, knows joy when the phone is ringing again, the revival of civilization in this fragile manifestation as telephone connection. The ability simply to call without overcoming the staircases and kilometers in search of "coverage". Since September regular interrupted communication connection has become even familiar. Repair. Replacement of the cable. Search for the damaged area. Shellfire in the tower. All this was passed in the chain again and we were happy again about return of communication and civilization. Somehow all the latest military problems concerned only MTS, Life continued to work well on the territory of the LPR. Kyivstar completely "went" from the LPR in January.

On June 22nd, 2015 communication provided by MTS on the territory of the LPR again disappeared. "Replacement of the damaged optic fiber", - reported the news. Behind the scenes there is the lack of agreement on price issue between the authorities of the republic and the executives of the mobile operator. Actually, the head of the republic Igor Plotnitsky confirmed on July 2nd in local news: "MTS dictates its unacceptable conditions, which we cannot accept. Life will work, it’s a Turkish company, they do not care where to earn money. In the future there will be our Lugakom operator, we have already done 60% of the coverage".  And meanwhile all rush to buy Life start packages, the price of which has grown up to 135 UAH per package, and we lose 15 UAH for installment. Life cannot cope with striking number of subscribers, providing a connection for 2 minutes of uninterrupted conversation and often you have to listen "The network is busy at the moment".

By the way, promised Lugankom will work on the basis of the acquired Kyivstar equipment and cost 250 UAH per starter package. But DPR will have its own connection - Coal and Phoenix. Calls to Ukraine will be roaming in another country. At least people close to the government say so.

My city ... May 30th last year, we went through the city illuminated by lanterns like in rock hits. We were walking and surprised to see barricades, tiles near the administration, courage of musicians to come to the rebellious city. And in early August, I was waiting for a bus at the bus stop, where a woman was killed the night before and the whole wall of the bus top was in red bloody stripes. Only two months have passed and a whole life.

War changes people, opening eyes on many things. Someone laments bygone time, recalling as it was, complaining about the changes, and someone steps over the line in a hurry to live and fight.

Today my classmate with his family visited me. Three sons, a small business, goods for children. Last summer he brought his wife and newborn son and two older boys out of the city, and he returned to save his property from looters. "I saved" are not my words, I smirked when I heard it from him. It turns out that their unit was hit by a shell, no one was killed, but they had to save good from people. They keep their chins up, on leaving they told me: "Everything will be good now! The main thing was to survive last summer!"

My retired colleague lived with her mother, who was nearly ninety. The mother is a resident of the blockage Leningrad, a holder of orders. All last summer my girlfriend did her best to hide the war from the mother. She hears badly, and that helped to deceive. The most difficult was to explain why they eat three times a day the same thing from the same plates and then wash up only in the evening. A meticulous old woman went to wash up every time, not knowing that the daughter has to work several kilometers to get water. After gathering the mother’s documents, she went to Government House to ask for product aid. She wasn’t refused, but to get the grocery pack it took half a year and hundreds of photocopies of documents confirming the special status of the mother. The mother didn’t last to the second aid.


Several times I was impressed by a tall and strong-looking man, who carries tea on the market. The job offers are scarce. There is always some work for such flexible people who don’t give up. They bake buns and sell at hospitals and government institutions, knit wreaths at Easter, sell newspapers at shops. My neighbor, who is a bricklayer, with the last stage of varicose bandages legs with tape, because the cotton is hard to find and bandages are expensive. He hides oozing wounds and works cheerfully.

In June early in the morning I left for Alchevsk and every morning a neat demented guy at the bus stop was selling newspapers: "Dear passengers, I offer you a newspaper full of advertising and classified ads, where you will find ..." And everybody "poked" him. For some reason I felt so sorry for him, people are now very embittered. Someone's son came up with such a business, and his mother let him go without fear. The newspaper costs 1 hryvnia 50 kopecks. What do you think, how much you can make money on it?

My old friend regularly sends me patriotic SMS slogans. He calls me to serve the homeland and support the young republic. Do you think he is in the ranks of the militia? Definitely no, my hero is capable only of calling slogans and sympathy from a distance. He is frankly astonished: "And who's going to raise my son, are you? If I go to fight?" He is divorced for a long time, his wife is in Ukraine, and he hasn’t paid alimony for a year. That’s all about illusion and self-deception. Heroism in distance.

I am also impressed by so-called ladies, who are smiting their breast when they see heroes in uniform. Their husbands feel ok at home. They express sympathy from the couch. Double standards.

My cousin died in a nursing house in February last year. Hard times, search for diapers, medications, feeding with a spoon, painful expectation of the end. Her neighbour in the ward was of the same age who was sure she wouldn’t live long after seeing the daily dying. I came to her in August last year, brought fruit. You know, she envies my cousin. She says she was lucky to die before all of this. And not only she is envious. The boarding school was hit by a shell, killing a security guard at the entrance and wheelchair users, who were sun bathing, concrete fence was demolished, the entire first floor was left without glasses. What kind of decent aging is that without light and with rushing (just imagine) to the unequipped basement. My friend decided not to run but wait for the end in the ward. But she survived that.

War is a catalyst for many. There happens things we had no idea about. Some hidden forces (where from?), endurance, humour. My student is from a large family. The Armenian parents have four children, only the father works as a driver. The house is with electric stoves, no gas. They live on the 14th floor. In August only 6 families stayed in their block of flats. No light, no water, as in the whole city. They cooked food on the fire ... there, on the 14th floor. They brought water together, ate together. The father found the safest place for children to sleep on the landing, on two removed doors. Mom equipped the bed. "But we tried not to cry together not to upset parents".

My doubts that there is something wrong on the "Republic" appeared last summer. There were a lot of such invisible ] strokes were a lot; no man I know would be part of the militia, but everyone I saw and learned later had been unsettled before the war and realized themselves in it: released from prison, unemployed, without qualifications, unsettled and drinking. Those, who blamed the former power for their unsettled life, found themselves in this war. Almost all have pretty vague job, more or less expressed ambition and too much expressed bad habits.

I was looking for, I would like to see those who will prove that I am wrong, honest, heroic, true. But the eyes were sored by 22-year-old lieutenant, who did not participate in the fighting, but his ambitions are enough for the whole division, the young lady with captain shoulder straps, who was certainly supported by a prominent military figure, found his love in this war...

I was waiting, patiently waiting for evidence to prove the contrary, but life showed new and new examples of the shocking discrepancies between ranks and positions. My colleague’s boyfriend drank a lot and did not work for a long time, and now he is at the forefront in the ranks ... He wears a bandanna, cut short gloves, walks in dark glasses. Kitch for young girls. The men I knew and whose opinion meant something, and even now does, remained with their families, went out, but even in the most difficult situations did not join militia, though today it is the only place where you can earn.

It is always possible to come there and sell yourself, exchange freedom for the illusion of a fortune. Salaries have become stable, they have introduced a grid in Russian rubles and now it is no secret "how much" this or that position costs.

Army looks like a swarm of frightened snakes, the head of which buys its own tail. They are looking for and collecting blackmail information at each other. And here it is ... it is on the surface. No fights, no higher education to hold senior positions (often there is not even a complete secondary education), sentenced.... Escaped from the field ... Drank and drinks ... In Septemer I was speechless to see militants in full combat uniform with guns who received methadone for methadone programme in the addictology department. The staff answered my numb question: there are two more with delirium tremens in the intensive care unit.


At the entrance of the commandant's office there are photos of fallen heroes, inspiring heroic fate of those fallen on the battlefield ... In a private conversation, you get to know: shot himself drunk, was killed by his comrades when he refused to say the password, was killed while escaping from the battlefield, was killed by a battle comrade during drinking bout ... Of course, that's not all, but the examples are numerous.

Higher education is in great demand. Militias of all ages rushed to grind away at their books, writing "incomplete higher education" in the forms immediately after the submission of documents to the university. Teach a militant is a new business.

Every military commander is in the shadow of the Russian curator who is sent to support... teach ... drill... They come here to get new stars on the shoulder straps, equating the trip to the hot spots. They are "zeros" when come with fictitious call signals, full names and a real title. Every signature of the commander is approved by the invisible shadow of his curator.... But that's another story. And it’s way harder to defeat this army of twins.

Yana Viktorova, Luhansk, especially for OstroV