Christmas Eve began with the fact that I met "cargo 200" on the way to church - a minibus with the DNR plate, and a van with bars for the transportation of prisoners literally in a couple of minutes.
Donetsk turns into a ghost town. Half-empty streets, broken windows, collapsing facades of houses, thriving marauding. Central streets seem to be lit, but due to the lack of light in windows, it seems that the city has plunged into darkness. The impression is being enhanced by new reflective traffic signs. You are driving along the central streets past unlit houses and, suddenly, catch bright flashes of traffic signs on the way.
About 30 cm of snow fell in the city on the eve of the New Year holidays. For two weeks of my stay, public utilities barely managed to clear just the central streets of snow. The tram lines were paralyzed for almost two days, people cleared the tracks with shovels. There is not enough snow clearing equipment on the streets of the city. The lack of equipment was compensated for by a large number of public utility workers with shovels.
There are only duty trolley buses and trams after 7 p.m. You can get a shuttle bus within the city up to 7 p.m. Shuttle buses are often overcrowded. The fare in the tram and trolley bus is $0.04. The average fare for a shuttle bus is $0.15. The average fare for taxi is $1.34 per 5 km. The Donetsk residents actively use mobile application of the DNR operator Phoenix to call a taxi. Taxi services with Vodafone numbers (the only Ukrainian operator that continues to operate in the uncontrolled territory) are rare. Taxi drivers themselves prefer to use Phoenix. If the order comes from the Vodafone number, it means "vagrant" – came to the relatives for holidays. Taxi drivers communicate through the operator with such clients.
There are a lot of people with severe intoxication, including the youth, at the bus stops and in transport. There was no widespread alcoholism in 2015 (the year of my departure from the "republic").
Food provision in the "republic" reminded me the 90s. Lack of products, high prices and numerous "shuttles" bringing goods from Rostov. The worst situation is with vegetables and fruits. Their cost in comparison with the Ukrainian is twice as high, and the quality is lousy (moldy mushrooms, beaten and rotten tangerines, frostbitten greens).
What surprised? Panic fear in relation to friends and relatives who arrived "from the Ukrainian side". What if you are the SBU agent, and will hand over your relatives to the Ukrainian special services, like Pavlik Morozov. Otherwise, why did you suddenly come and insist on offering to gather with the whole family around the New Year's table? "Why do you take a selfie? Are you going to pass our photos to the SBU?!".
In fairness, I will note that the same fear is poisoning the lives of fellow displaced persons, who fall into panic at the mere thought of going to visit relatives left in the uncontrolled territory. "Only monsters remained there. They (relatives, acquaintances, neighbors) will write a report, you will be thrown into the basement, they will kill you, they will rape you, will be gone missing".
I was surprised by the lack of piety for the "DNR" military. They are not given place in public transport, even people with disabilities on crutches. Their presence is generally not noticed. As, in fact, the sounds of practically round-the-clock cannonade. People are accustomed to war, and distant shots are already perceived as the usual background, such as the factory whistle of a metallurgical plant (by the way, it still whistles at six in the morning and ten in the evening).
I was also surprised by the Negro with an assault rifle in the outfit of cadet of the "DNR" "army". He stood on Pushkin Boulevard, husked seeds and spoke with "brother-in-arms" in fluent Russian…
Two weeks is my limit "at home". Already in the morning of the third day, there was an overwhelming desire to escape from the constricting ring of poverty, misery and all-consuming feeling of hopelessness.
It is good for those who have the opportunity to occasionally travel outside the reservation to the territory controlled by Ukraine. Leaving every six months is considered to be a kind of "treatment". "You swallow fresh air, see the life and feel yourself alive again". But there are many who consider themselves "restricted to travel" (for real or, what is more often, contrived reasons). As a rule, these are middle-aged people, employees of medical institutions, schools and higher educational institutions who receive "republican wages". Of course, it is psychologically very hard for them.
On the New Year's Eve, Oplot "republican" television channel conducted a survey of residents on the city's streets, what they expect from the new coming year. And many people talked about one thing on camera: "Let, finally, certainty come, either one way or the other".
Anton Berg, Donetsk, for OstroV