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.
Please follow the link to read the 1st part of the story
Please follow the link to read the 2nd part of the story
“This war isn’t going to end any time soon”
“In summer 2014, when the shelling started, we left Gorlovka for the first time. It was the time of planned holidays so we did not encounter any complications at work. It seemed then that all of this would end soon and we would come back home and resume normal life. But nothing ended except for our source of income. We came back in autumn, after we ran out of money and grew to need some warm clothes. My husband worked as a manager of one of the departments at a private company in Gorlivka. When he returned to work after his extended holiday, he found out that his position had already been taken, notably by a “colleague”. This “colleague” had very pro-Russian views and, naturally, became a “DPR” activist. Back in spring, they had a row after my husband told him harshly:
“If you like Russia so much, why don’t you go and live there! What’s with all the waving of foreign banners?!”
The other one hissed in response:
“Noooo! It’s you and people like you who will be given a one-way ticket to your Khokhol Land!”
Back then in spring, it sounded crazy, nobody could believe in something like that. Then in summer, that “colleague” took my husband’s place and told him:
“You will not rule here!”
My husband said, fine, I won’t. He didn’t want to argue and took a voluntary leave.
He left home. Then in a few hours three men armed with gun machines came to our home, they came to take him. They said someone filed a statement against my husband and that they were taking him away. I started asking, who, where, what for? But they did not give me any answer and took my husband away without saying a word. Through the slit in the window blinds, our children watched the car their dad was pushed into, its number plate. We were scared because we heard earlier that people living in town were disappearing – they would be taken away and get lost.
I rushed to call all my acquaintances in order to find someone who I might contact. I did not dare to go somewhere because I was afraid of leaving my kids alone – those people could come back while the kids were home alone!
In a couple of hours, someone rang the door. I opened it to see the son of my close friend, I had known the guy since his childhood. He was dressed in military clothes but did not carry a gun. He saw me and blushed.
“Hi there! Is so-and-so your husband?” — he said while averting his eyes.
Yes, it is he, I said.
“I came to pick his phone.”
When they were taking my husband away, everything happened so quickly and suddenly that he didn’t even have a chance to take his cell phone with him. I gave him the phone and said:
“Now tell me where they have taken him, why, what is he being charged with?”
He got embarrassed. He told me not to worry, that it was probably a mistake, that they would look into this and let him go. That everybody knew us so well …
“Oh yes,” — said I. “You know me well here. But those who have come here from Russia to take part in this war do not care about me in the least!”
Soon I got a call from my husband’s cell phone. A man who introduced himself as some colonel was asking me what kind of property we had – apartments, cars, businesses, summer houses, etc. We did not have anything in our possession but our Khrushchyovka apartment, so that was what I told him.
Soon they brought my husband, pallid, almost greenish.
We left Gorlovka that evening – for good.
My husband had kept silence about the events of that day for nearly three months. Then he finally told me he had been brought to some room where they had put handcuffs and a gas mask on the table and told him, “We will not put these tools to use if you tell us the truth.”
They interrogated him, very rudely, about his political views, his collaboration with the Ukrainian army and the Right Sector; they asked him where we had been in summer and what we had been doing there. They checked his phone contacts. Finally, they wondered why someone would want to write a statement against him if we were such nice people.
My husband just shrugged his shoulders – could he have crossed somebody’s path?
They further inquired him about his property and then took him home.
Do you know the main difference between living in Ukraine and “there”? People complain about the government everywhere, but if you try scolding the government in Kharkiv, Kyiv or Zhytomyr, the gunmen will not pay you a visit to throw you in a cellar.”
“We left late in 2014, not even due to the shooting. But because we realized that this war was not going to end any time soon. We were scared to leave because we were not sure whether or not we were on those “DPR’s black lists”. You could be stopped at their checkpoint and disappear. There were many people in the town who disappeared just like that. We were frightened to death and burst into tears once we reached the Ukrainian checkpoint. There were so many of our soldiers and military equipment on the road leading to Artemivsk. We couldn’t help but approach them. I said, “Guys, what are you waiting for? Set Ukraine free!” They smiled and looked away. Then one of them said to me, “We could have done this in a day. If only we were given the order…”
Please follow the link to read the 2nd part of the story
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