In 2014, a huge billboard could be seen near the separatists’ checkpoint at the entry to the town, saying “Welcome to hell!” These words perfectly match what Gorlivka residents have to say about their war-struck town obsessing about the Russian Spring.
People here are of different professions, ages and backgrounds. The only thing they have in common is once living in Gorlivka and managing to escape from the town over which Ukraine had control no longer. Here is what people who came from Gorlivka to Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Kyiv have to tell us
Their short recollections fit into a terrible jigsaw of the so-called “DPR” nightmare reality.
We do not give any names for safety reasons.
“I don’t know what they are going to do to me”
I had a colleague, a single middle-aged woman. Out of all her family members, she only had a sister who lived far away, somewhere in Belarus. When Gorlivka came under fire, my colleague went to her sister’s, but came back a month later. Her sister had a family of her own, her flat was small, so my colleague couldn’t take advantage of their hospitality for too long, as it was hard for everyone involved. She returned to work in Gorlivka, but she was highly concerned about what was going on in the town as she shared mostly pro-Ukrainian views.
My family and I left for Dnipropetrovsk but we kept calling each other. She was complaining that they took off all Ukrainian display stands, that they forced everyone to join Zakharchenko’s party, that they demanded to hail DPR, which was disgusting to her. We found a job and accommodation for her in Dnipropetrovsk. She settled the issue with the passes needed to get through the checkpoints. Then all of a sudden, she called and told us she was not coming.
It turned out that she had said at work that she was going to her sister’s (telling that you are leaving for
Ukraine is dangerous). But she didn’t make it — a man dressed in “DPR” clothes, some “security officer”, came to see her and told her to stay, “It’s all going to be all right for you, there is no need for you to leave”. Then he reminded her how she badmouthed militiamen, scolded “DPR” and voiced her pro-Ukrainian opinions. Except that she only did it while talking to her closest friends whom she confided in completely.
“I can’t tell you everything on the phone, but I’m not coming. If they seize me on my way out, I don’t know what’s going to happen to me,” — she said.
We never talked again.
For a notebook
— A supply manager went missing in the 36th school, the one in the 88th quarter. In summer 2014, she did not let the militia inside the school. Back then, they camped around the school and wanted to occupy some of the school premises, but she did not let them. The school building also hosted a kindergarten, and the manager told the militia that the military had no business next to children. The militants ranted at first, then occupied the whole territory around the school. And she passed by their posts every day on her way to the school.
Then she got captured. It turned out that she was noting down the militants’ moves — how many of them came or left, and at what time. Only none of her colleagues believes she was a Ukrainian spy as she did not even try to hide the notebook – she always had it in places where everyone could see it.
Those who knew her said she was generally a weird and stern woman. She was fond of recording, registering and counting everything. She had lots of notebooks where she kept her records of virtually everything – she would measure the weight in kg of building supplies delivered to the school or wander around the school taking down and numbering everything. She was very keen on numbers.
After she had been captured by the militants, she was lost and nobody saw her ever since. I think she would have turned up if she’d still been alive. But since she hadn’t, she might have been killed.
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