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Luhansk diary. “We are not Ukraine any more”..

Luhansk diary. “We are not Ukraine any more”..

You know, I have understood! I have understood a thing which seems obvious:  where we are heading for. I an an ordinary resident of my city, I learn the news from MM, from my friends, from what people around me are saying— at the market or on public transport — these talks can tell you more than TV can.

I had been absorbing these impressions drop by drop until I suddenly understood that we are not Ukraine any more though we are a part of it legally. On the one hand, we stick to our Ukrainian passports, pensions, welfare payments and we are ready to pay anyone to get a Ukrainian birth certificate for our child, to renew a photograph in our UKRAINIAN passport, to take out Ukrainian money from our bank cards. We are foaming at the mouth proving all the people around: “It took me years to earn my Ukrainian pension, I am not going to give it to anyone.”

Ukrainian goods are trendy. Shop assistants roll their eyes when they say meaningfully: “These are Ukrainian goods. You can see that the quality is good.” When they speak about Russian goods they say scornfully: “Probably, it was Russian? That is why it was cheaper, of course, but it contained chemical additives and colourants, I would not have bought it. But it's your choice, for sure, if you have no money to buy good things.” Despite bans and blockades, new future millionnaires bring here fish and alcohol, sigarettes and fruit, mayonnaise and ice cream — all these things are made in Ukraine. We sigh and again and again remember the prices and quality of the past and count Russian money which disappears from our wallets as quickly as snow disappears in March.

Does it seem to me that there are plenty cars with Russian number plates on the roads? It takes me a short time to get to work but I notice about ten such cars during this short distance, and this, actually, is not the central part of the city. This is just a small stroke to the picture of where our ship is heading to, while it is swirling in a foamy sea of political and economic cataclysms.

A year ago, six months ago we kept asking each other: “What is to happen to this terrirory? Will it be a part of Russia? Or Ukraine? Or will it be Transnistria? Or will it remain just a piece of shit?” Now, everyone is saying gravely: “Of course, it is obvious, that Ukraine will never come back here.” Maybe, those drivers with Russian number plates, Russian builders who invest in houses and supermarkets construction, real estate agents whose main clients are Russians (a two-bedroom flat costs less than twenty thousand dollars — three or four times cheaper than it used to cost), owners of cafes who change the signs from Ukrainian into Russian ones overnight and buy fast foods and restaurants from their Ukrainian owners understand this better than others do.

I do not know what Russian military curators think and if they think anything at all, but a year ago they came here on business for a month or two until new ones were ordered to come here and replace them. Now they are officially employed here (though under assumed surnames) and their business trips have lasted for more than a year.

Behind every local commander there is a shadow of his Russian curator who is not suggesting any more, now he demands, checks, controls and knows his duties and authorities and has far more power than local “servicemen”.

Coming back to the talks which can be heard around, new cities we only heard about before grate on our ears: trips to Belgorod and Rostov, holiday Russia, photographs from holidays in Moscow, new goods from Krasnodar. As if Russia were entering us, holding with its deadly grip everything that was left by previous owners. The only minus is that pensions and salaries remain Ukrainian (they are paid in rubles, the amount is multiplied by two) though prices have become Russian (much higher) long ago which leaves less and less space for life and survival to those are still citizens of Ukraine, held hostage on this bizarre ship without insignia.

Where will it head for in the new year? What shallow waters are waiting for it?...

Yana Viktorova, Luhansk, specially for “OstroV”

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