Hikes to Stanytsia Luhanska look like natural selection. Yesterday, not even really old women discussed these journeys to Stanytsia. One of them argued (though no one objected her) that with her health condition she would not stand the second trip, because she could have an attack at any moment, and she would not survive the trip.
Sounds almost like a war, right? But it is, in fact. Let me tell you the details of transfer from Luhansk to the territory of free Ukraine with operating ATMs, abundance of medicines and the usual quality products.
First, you need to leave home on time so that you are first in the queue for a shuttle bus to Stanytsia. It could seem simple. After all, we are talking only about getting from Luhansk to the bridge - the starting point of the hiking route. But the bus goes without stops from the bus station to the bridge. Previously, private minibuses were fetching passengers chaotically and often enough. But there were those, to whom the old drivers seemed corrupt and the buses seemed uncomfortable. Their written complaints and oral pleas were heard, and large and "state" buses came to replace the frequent private minibuses, taking passengers according to the number of seats only.
That is, if earlier it were private entrepreneurs who made money, then the "state" quickly realized that the transportation of "pilgrims" to Stanytsia is a very profitable business. Transportation costs $0.2. No discounts for the elderly, children or disabled people. For comparison, the fare in urban transport is $0.16, the fare with discount is $0.08.
And, by the way, the "government" explained that everything was done exclusively for the convenience of pensioners, since there are toilets, shops and other advantages on the territory of the bus station. Even in an interview with local television, they explained it - everyone used to freeze in winter, overheat in summer, but now everything is done exclusively "for the convenience of citizens". By the way, I never saw anyone who would use all these benefits of the bus station (benches, shade, tea and a heated hall), as long line stands exclusively outdoors near the ticket offices, and everyone is afraid to lose their place in that line...
Today I was at the bus station at 6 a.m. on business. 6 a.m.! In the photo, you can see the queue to the "state" buses to Stanytsia. Many got up at three in the morning, and then walked on foot to the bus station - the city transport starts to operate only around six in the morning. That is, imagine the hardships of an elderly person to get to the legitimate territory of Ukraine.
Although if you did not experience all of this, you can hardly imagine it. In the same interview of local officials to local "television", it was said that with the introduction of ticket offices at the bus station, everything would get easier and more convenient for everyone. This could be said only by someone who never stood for days on end in those lines, who did not lose consciousness from heat and did not curse everything.
My acquaintance travels to the free territory of Ukraine once every two months to get her pension and be checked by the bank. She lives in the east of Luhansk, that is, she used to walk to the bridge a little earlier and stood in line there. Now she has to use the earliest minibus and two more buses to get to the bus station and spend the next three hours there, waiting for her turn to board the green bus with the route "Bus station - bridge".
In fact, there are two lines. The queue of mere mortals and the one of benefit holders (disabled people with certificates, mothers with babies under five years old, pregnant women and very old people). But a timid old man will never get into that line, since, after standing for three hours at the bus station, any old man will seem not old enough to everyone else, and any pregnant woman would be not pregnant enough.
Hatred, envy and fury are poured onto those who get into the accelerated line. Everyone understands perfectly well that children are a pass to it, so mothers are not too lazy to carry strollers and take little babies with them: in all weather, hearing curses and hatred. Forget about commissions for the protection of children's rights, if the baby carriage is also a hand-barrow, a bag and a bed for the baby, the banned meat hides in the draw-sheet and the child is on the street for hours in all weather.
My friend spends eight hours on the bridge. In the sun and in the wind, without benches or some benefits. Life in the regime of series flashes before our eyes in these crossings. People are standing extremely tight. And only those who cannot stand by their age are sitting. On her return, my friend noticed that her face was sunburnt – in April, in the very same queue…
Back in the queue, her friend saw her and took with him, having a certificate of an insulin-dependent patient. It was unprecedented and unheard-of happiness. But having spent hours and days in these queues, she understood full well how many curses are poured in her back…
Yes, there can be quite a natural question about why cannot you take a taxi and get from home to this bridge in just 15 minutes in comfort conditions for some $6-8? Without queues at the bus station and crowd. You can. But buses are the first to enter the bridge and the car will give only a feeling of comfort along the way, but will not speed up the route itself. Taxi drivers near the monument to Prince Igor stand in their line, skipping buses according to the established custom…
Another friend of mine went to Stanytsia for a pension. Before that, he knew that he was old – he was late seventies. But he was quite active for self-service, getting to store and doing housework. He stood with all the others for five hours in line. It was November, but he was warmly clad. And when he had already got to the bridge and Stanytsia was so close, he felt bad. So bad that neither the thought of money, nor the understanding of the absurdity of what was happening could affect his condition. He started having the chills. At first, he tried to hide it somehow, but people noticed his condition. The next few hours he spent in a heating tent. He drank tea, warmed his hands and came round. He never got to Stanytsia. Not then or ever. He returned home…
Yes, after five hours in queue, when he just needed to survive and wait some three or four hours in the next queues…
All those who survived these crossings say that everything that was happening from start to finish humiliates. Questions about the aims of the route, queues, stiffness, selfishness, searches… Written statements about why you are returning to Luhansk, demanded by the Ukrainian military, and questions of "militiamen" about the place of work and the purposes of the trip's goals… Fear, humiliation, interrogations, fear to answer wrong.
I took a child with me in my several trips. And the feeling that these impressions and this road is the worst thing I could think of for my baby did not leave. We spent about nine hours on our feet. We had food and water with us, we were sitting on benches already in Stanytsia, but… Maybe, all this is too subjective, but the feeling that I am a bad mother who used the child for her own purposes, forcing him to experience all this with me did not leave – shell craters, military on both sides, guns, flags, "pollarded" by shelling trees, anti-tank hedgehogs, dust, human hatred… Is my comfort worth his impressions? I do not think so. And I do not think that I was doing the right thing, saving my time that way.
One more thing, during our crossing, only one or two from thousands of people smiled at us, giving way not because my privilege was with me, but because there was a small child in front of them… Seeing all this, you become hardened. You dislodge what you saw, try to wash yourself clean at home, forget, sleep all these negative impressions. Put some protection, convincing yourself that you solved the questions, helped your relatives, had no other choice, and those who were destined to die in this way would have died anyway… The general impression of all who passed through that bridge, through those circles of roads is humiliation, loss of dignity and fatigue, which remains with you for a very long time.
It is also interesting that these crossings to Stanytsia gave the business to a lot of people. Thus, rector of Dahl LNU professor V. Riabichev organized a paid parking for fixed-route taxis, carrying out pilgrims' transportation throughout the "republic", in the parking lot near new building of the university. The drivers of "state" buses know about this, braking just near the "blue" university building and giving the travelers opportunity to change the vehicle in order to pass the following circles of this difficult way to the place of destination.
Olha Kucher, Luhansk, for OstroV