Humanitarian aid fails to get to mining towns and there is practically no work there. When you come to a small town from a big city, the first thing you think is: “Oh, my... How do they live here?”
If there is a motorway nearby, the locals try to sell something along the road sides. If they have something to sell. However, in this region the main job always used to be mining. Life would be guided by mines and the plans would be built according to the wages they provided for the head of the family.
A miner was one of the most prestigious professions in the 80s. They could afford expensive fur hats for winter. They could buy a TV for their wages. They got crazy money! It was a tradition to take families to the sea in the summer, miners’ life was practically luxurious though difficult. Women would hold their breath when strong and courageous men were walking along the streets of the town. Their profession had a romantic halo around and its own legends and traditions.
At that time, a lot of money was invested in mining towns, palaces of culture would be built, street lights would shine brightly, those towns would be buzzing with life. Of course, people used to go to Luhansk for shopping. People also used to go to there for meetings and demonstartions, bt they held banners with the name of their town as they loved their small and cosy localities. They loved them not for their beauty, but because they were THEIR towns. Terricones, windy steppes, their own, special romance.
A lot can be said about what life is like in those small towns now. It it hard. When famous trade chains started entering them with their big supermarkets and own makes ten years ago, this meant creating work places for hundreds of people, civilization and at least some level of culture. People were happy as children at opening ceremonies, they made appointments in those shops, had a rest on benches near them, and then got used to their presence.
There was less and less work. It was impossible to sell a flat or a house thus, there was no money to leave the town. It was unbelievable luck to get out of this dead circle. Those who stayed would envy the courage and persistance and sigh. Students who went to Luhansk to study were special as well.
They dressed differently, they lived differently, they could change their lives and stay in Luhansk, then, their paretns would visit them in a big city.
A whole life, a whole epoque... A little more than a year ago, a new life started in a similar way. Military enlistment offices appeared and they were recruiting people as well. That promised wages, work places and prospects. So many people wanted to join in! There were servicemen, ex-security guards of ex-banks and those who took part in the movement from the very first day (no one knows for sure, but they claimed that they had been among the militants from the very first day of the conflict).
The roads are destroyed. The area looks apocalyptic. Somewhere you can see ruins of checkpoints, somewhere there is burnt machinery. There are military enlistment offices on the premises which once belonged to banks and there is still their furniture and office appliances there. If you walk along the centre, it looks like there is still some life here. If you walk a little closer to the outskirts, you will see destruction, emptness and you feel as if time had stopped here. Even the air does not move. And there is no work. No work at all.
Who will think about political views if those enterprises where whole families used to work, closed down? Life is leaving these towns and people struggle to survive. If they are lucky, they go to work at illegal mines. It is extremely dangerous but there one can earn at least some money. Another option for the lucky ones is trade. It is impossible to get out of this vicious circle.
I was in Pervomaysk in the summer 2015. People had so many hopes for at least some work. They did not care about diplomas or teachers any more. They were tired, hostile and they did not trust anyone.
“No one helps us! No one cares of us!” Maybe, there are voluntees who bring something, but this is a trifle compared to the problems people there have. Besides, the majotiry of volunteers go to Luhansk as it is easier to get there. Those who stay in small towns cannot understand why they hardly ever get help, as they are people who have the same problems as those ones who live in Luhansk...
Yestarday I thought that Luhansk has started to remind those small dying towns. There is some life around military objects: there are vehicles and people with weapons are making fuss around lorries. Former banks are clustered with cars. Such areas are still lively but if you go a little further, then life practically stops and there are hardly any people around. Every second shop, office or beauty parlour is closed. Those that still work look nice but the neighbouring ones are dilapidated and abandoned.
One should walk in the yards of Khruschov-style buildings to see real Luhansk. There are heatlines, wrapped in old cloth, remnants of playgrounds, which look as if some giant turned metal swings and slides upside down, benches, covered with shabby rugs (hand-made from senior ladies). If there are some enthusiasts in the house, there will be some decorations near it: palms or animals made of plastic bottles. However, in the majotiry of cases these yards just look gloomy, though, it is possible to get used to this if you walk across them every day. Between the floors, there are cables of Luhansk Cable TV, which are wrapped in yellow and blue coating. The Ukrainian Coat of Arms one one of them if cut out and there is an inscription above it “LPR”. This is the only instance, the rest of the area looks absolutely indifferent to the events happening.
People watch the “authorities” lazily and without any interest, as if they were watching a TV series. They comment and judge, like those who make stakes at a hippodrome. Some are sure that we are nearly Russia, some ask in whisper: “Will Ukraine come back here before Easter?” People’s minds are as abandoned as streets.
Warm weather is coming and beer season begins. Abandoned shops are turning into pubs which attract customers by bright-orange colour of the foamy beverage and big windows...
The terricones are silent witnesses who have seen a lot and who will live longer that this part of history. They are as indifferent to everything as dry winds of the steppe, winds of solitude and big hopes.
Yana Viktorova, teacher, Luhansk, Radiosvoboda
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