My friend Natalia rubs through every day in occupied Makiivka tolerably and steadfastly. Due to objective reasons, she does not express the pro-Ukrainian position. Because of the existing family circumstances, she and her sister did not leave the occupied city for a long time. Recently, at last, she left CDDLO for a few days in free Ukraine, or as they say - "in the mainland". After that, her faith in the liberation of Donbass greatly dented. Why? - Natalia explained to OstroV.
- My sister and I did not leave the occupation zone for about 3.5 years. First of all, it is too burdensome from the financial point of view, and secondly - there was no acute need. Nevertheless, we decided to go to distant relatives to a settlement near Dnipro.
The crossing of checkpoints from the "DNR" makes a depressing impression and leaves a heavy feeling in the soul. Wild and terrible "safari": heat, a pillar of sand and dust; quite tanned young strong (obviously not starving, overweight) military in a sand-colored uniform (coffee with milk) in glaring mirror shades; buses, cars, Gazelles, people with trunks, luggage, shopping strollers; military vehicles; private entrepreneurs with coffee machines inside the car; vanity, chaos – everyone is in a hurry, nervous, talks quickly and a lot, collide with each other – life is boiling like in a whirlpool. Associations – evacuation, anomalous zone, etc.
The living queue of pedestrians resembles cattle, which is being driven through the wasteland. It is especially painful for the old people – exhausted and tired, with sticks, barely hobbling, with wet towels on their heads, kerchiefs, weather-stained umbrellas and other means of protection from the heat.
Ukrainian checkpoints are equipped a little better than the "DNR" ones. For example, a more or less bearable toilet. It is important that the Ukrainian "customs" works much faster and more professionally, the result is obvious – a queue in this direction is moving many times faster at any time of the day.
We really wanted to see the Ukrainian flag. The yellow-blue flag at the Ukrainian checkpoint brought ambivalent feelings in the first minutes: joy - on the one hand, and pain - on the other. Because it is unknown how much we will suffer the oppressive tricolors.
I did not feel safe even after crossing the checkpoint. This tension is at the level of reflex. Yes, it is a little easier, but the degree of emotional stress has not diminished. Peaceful life has the opposite effect - you feel the gap between us, residents in the occupation and our compatriots, even more.
The affectionate embrace of relatives warmed the soul. Care and attention touched us greatly. But there is no understanding of where did you come from and how are you living under the occupiers at all. As the saying runs, a man with a full belly thinks no one is hungry.
Someone from friends or relatives' neighbors blurted out something like what are you complaining about, it is good for you there. "Well, they do not fire at you every day, they did not hit the house, it means everything is OK", - they say. And how can you explain to them that you cannot breathe freely in the "DNR", and that there is a feeling that you are under surveillance. Words cannot do justice to it. You cannot take a peaceful life in your pocket or purse, no matter how much you would like.
When asked where we are from by the local residents, we answered: "From there". People immediately understood what territory it was about. We talked to the locals, it turned out that some of them really believe that life under the "wing of Russia" is much better. At the same time, they themselves rarely go there, and are afraid to go to us - they are shooting after all. Frankly speaking, the locals (in the village near Dnipro) even envy our life-being, saying that the public services are inexpensive and transportation is cheaper.
They really want comrade V. to come and carve out a "paradisiacal life". It shocked us. Shook to the core, probably even stronger than the checkpoints. On the one hand, these people can be understood: a constant shortage of money, an increase in tariffs for utility services and food prices generates a lot of claims to the current authorities.
Near Dnipro, where we were, many people watch Russian TV channels, where they are shown "beautiful pictures" of life in a neighboring country, that is, brainwashing is going on. It was almost impossible to buy a newspaper in Ukrainian - they say, go to the post office, maybe there is something there. By the way, are two information stands in the local branch of the Pension Fund there - in Russian and Ukrainian. Previously, we did not pay attention to this, but now it sets the teeth on edge.
We saw the Ukrainian flag only on the building of the executive committee. By the way, tricoloured flags are almost on every building in the "DNR" - is it good or bad? A rhetorical question. If authorities do not need this, why are the local people so passive? That makes for misery. The land of nod!
On a weekend day, we decided to take a walk along the central street of the village and saw no rubbish bins! As local residents said, there is simply no one to take care of this. There is no mayor or other authorities since spring. This suggests that the current mechanism of power is not viable. So how can it protect the country?!
By the way, speaking of the cleanliness of the streets. We met local janitors, who apparently decided to rest at lunchtime. They were laying on the grass in a shade and waiting for the heat to subside. In "DNR" you will not see this. People with bitterness diligently sweep and clean in the hope of at least a minimum payment for temporary public works from hopelessness and unemployment.
The people are tired of the war, and not only in the occupation. Those who are under Ukraine’s control also want peace. But people do not know who is able to bring this long-awaited peace. My relatives insist that there is no one to choose from among the presidential candidates, no one is trustworthy.
One of the most unpleasant "discoveries" was that some local residents are very disdainful of the Ukrainian military - the participants of the ATO. At the station, a soldier took turns outside the queue to specify the time of arrival of the bus. Almost everyone who stood in line immediately attacked him with discontent. People, do you at least understand what these young guys have to do on the front line?! Yes, they are not perfect, someone can get drunk or make a fuss. But it is unfair to treat them according to the principle: if you are a military, then you are a priori bad.
Contrary to my expectations, this trip did not give me any moral strength or faith. The hope that the Donbass will be liberated, almost died.
The Ukrainian authorities are taking weak steps to return their territory, and irreversible processes are taking place during this time. I feel a psychological exhaustion after the trip. Human life has been depreciated. I clearly understood and experienced the most important thing - we, the inhabitants of the occupation zone, are unwanted, we are strangers everywhere. Our problems are only ours, that's it.
We returned back on the eve of Independence Day and watched the broadcast of the parade on the Internet. Yes, such things need to be done - to demonstrate our power and strength. Those weapons are designed for war, but do we need peace at such a price? The war in the Donbass claimed the lives of more than 10 thousand people, and how many more deaths could there be?
The speech of President P. Poroshenko gave hope that he was still fighting for Ukraine, and I hope he will find diplomatic tricks for Putin.
After vacation, half of colleagues asked carefully and with different intonation: "Well, how is it in Ukraine?". I answered: "There is just another life". And I heard responses with heavy sighs: "Well, yes, in Russia it's different too, but here..." Nothing changes, there is no life and, apparently, there will be no life here for long. But nobody cares.
After this trip, for the first time in my life, I felt myself not a Ukrainian, but a resident of the reservation, and I realized (with horror!) that for more than four years I had become accustomed to the conditions of occupation. And friends, neighbors, acquaintances, colleagues - like-minded people, paradoxically, now understand me much more than my relatives in Ukraine.
Anastasia Filippova, for OstroV