I remember every moment of the day when the peaceful name “Slovyansk” was mentioned in connection with war for the first time. That new, scary Slovyansk was so far away from us, who still lived in a peaceful town then. We did not understand what the war was and could not imagine what was going to happen to us soon.
“Human shield” or the first “refugees”
Echo of the war and the first refugees appeared in Toretsk when the town had already been occupied by illegal armed formations.
I have not got any proofs so I will venture just to tell the truth and hear hysterical screams of pro-Russian readers in response. The first refugees I saw were women evacuated to Dzerzhynsk (as our town was named at that time).
I interviewed some of them that is why I know how much they hated the Ukrainian Army. After some time, I understood what those women were doing there, one of them told be herself. They were a “human shield”. For several hundred hryvnyas they were protecting their men with their own bodies.
It is weird to hear now that Donetsk and Luhansk residents did not stop the war. I remember security that was following those “refugees”, weapons in the arms of local mercenaries, “DPR headquarters” surrounded by sacks with sand and concrete blocks... And I cannot imagine how people who did not have any arms could counter this.
“All for one”
I will wander from the subject for a moment. It is a popular idea now that in the Donbas we are “all for one and one for all”. Well, to some extent, we are, as other people are in any region of Ukraine. I have never met a person from Lviv, Poltava ot Kyiv who would hate their region and people who live there.
However, it would be nice if people tried to understand: only soldiers’ mothers can hate separatists more than we, “internally displaced persons” do. We have lost everything, barely everything, our lives are the only things we have preserved so far.
When we close our eyes, everyone, every person from Donetsk or Luhansk, sees their home. We have olny memories of it, it does not exist thanks to “RuSSian world”. A lot of IDPs will see only ruins when they return home after our Victory.
The word “if” is the most painful one. If the Army had come... If we had repelled them... If it had not been for... These words wring the heart as you know that there is no “if”. Whatever happened, happened. And it does not matter how happy we are living at a new place and it does not matter how beautiful our new curtains are, there is a scar on our souls.
It is impossible to forgive or to forget this. “Russian spring” which penetrated the streets of our cities will not become a faded or forgotten memory. We will always remeber this and we will always hope that when peace is restored we will get our towns back, and we will cure and rebuild them.
Victims of the “RuSSian world”
When I think about that time today, I regret that I did not spit any of those women in the face. One of them was in local hospital after an operation. This little fool had worked too hard at some separatist stuff, helping her husband who was “a militant” and had a miscarriage.
I remember I had to put on boot mitts and a medical gown to enter the ward and talk to her. She was sitting in this filthy blouse, so young she could be a girl, and told me how she was taking photos of the positions of Ukrainian servicemen and some other things she used to do. And then she asked me for a cigarette.
We went outside and stood near the entrance for a long time. I was not recording our conversation any more and I had taken all the photographs I had wanted to take. I was listening to her silently and an it was dawning on me: it was a breakup. Total breakup with the former Donbas. It was on that damned day when I understood that I would not be able to live there any more.
We were not thinking about evacuation at that time. Our house was still undamaged. We did not think then that the Anti-Terrorist Opration was going to take so much time. But anger, hot and thick as blood, and some premonition of danger were growing in my soul. And one of the reason of that was standing in front of me with that cigarette clutched in her fingers, talking and talking incessantly...
Reconciliation. Forgiveness. Unity
There are a few people now who will say: “This was your day, we have nothing to do with it. There is no war here.” Still, such people exist. People who are indifferent to everyhting.
Peace is so fragile. Who can say for sure that they are safe? There is no safe place in the country where the Ant-Terrorist Operation is in progress.
I want to address all those who “have nothing to do with the conflict in the Donbas”. Think about the fact that two years ago we could not imagine mines in our streets, “Grads” shelling at night, when you clench to your pillow in fear, or machine guns firing outside our house in mild Sptember twilight. We did not think that our men would go to the war... And that not all of them would come back. Then, no one was saying the word “war” and the abbreviation “ATO” was pronounced ironically.
Peace, like health or life itself can disappear suddenly. In my opinion, only unity can bring Ukraine together again. One day, I was standing at a bus stop in the Lviv region, where my family that had evacuated from the ATO zone was living then. I was talking to one of the locals and this is what he said: “Oh, you know, lady, this is what our people are the best at: biting each other”. These words, said by a simple peasant who had sacrificed all that he had, his son, for Ukraine, broke my heart.
There were so many things that are hard to explain in those words: despair, fear for the child who was sitting far away in trenches full of cold water, desire for peace, anger with people’s stupidity...
I just wish this war could teach Ukrainians to appreciate peace. We will not have another country or other people. Maybe, we should finally try to learn to love each other? Our claims against each other make our enemy, “the brotherly nation” stronger. Reconciliation. Forgiveness. Unity. Perhaps, these are the pillars which will support new, Ukrainian, peace?
Maryna Kuraptseva, Donpress.com
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