The territory between occupied districts and librated Donbas localities has turned into a real grey zone. Explosions are heard all the time here, food is in scarce supply and tens of thousands of people do their best to survive.
Our journalists went along the demarcation line and crossed the “border” to get to the occupied territory and answer the question: if the residents of frontline localities feel the so-called “ceasefire” and if it if possible to bring normal life back to the “grey zone”?
The village of Syze is situated in Stanytsya Luhanska district of the Luhansk region.
“Ukraine is here and Luhansk is there. We are in between and we get the most of this war. Landings, landings...”, says Valentyna who lives in the village.
Vicinity is mined, it is impossible to get pensions in the village so the locals have to go to Stanytsya Luhanska.
The situation in the village of Zolote (to the west of occupied Luhansk) is simiar.
One of the differences of the “grey zone” is that those who live on the occupied territory do not see journalists very often. The rest of things are the same: land that is now dangerous due to mines, destoryed houses, absence of transport or shops.
90% of the residents have left the occupied village of Khrystove. Those who stayed think that it is quite possible to live in there. Electric power supply has been restored recently and it is even possinle to sell a house here.
“We have everything and our people are good though some are have already died, unfortunately... It is OK to live here”, says one of the locals.
The village of Syze in the Luhansk region is situated two kilometres away from Russia and nearly three kilometres away from the positions of the militants of the illegal “LPR” organization. The Ukrainian Armed forces are located to the north of the village. Only ten people, who call their locality “the appendix”, live here. Radio Liberty reporting.
The road from Stanytsya Luhanska to Syze goes past big ponds. There are big sandpits on both sides of this road. The water has dried there. People used to go fishing here, rusty bridges still remain on the banks. The road is covered by craters. No one comes here. For kilometres around there are traces of tires and signs: “Stop! Mines!” It is dangerous to move further.
Streets with wooded houses are empty. The road finishes near a metal caterpillar tread which has practically grown into the ground. There is a red house in front of us, locals often gather here to talk or to meet with their guests.
Oleksandr Polkovnikov’s house is the first one on the outskirts of the village. Going into the forest, down to the lake or even into his own field has been banned by soldiers as mines were planted everywhere. He lost his job when the war started and only a year was left till the pension.
“I used to go to the pond to fish and then I ate what I caught. No I can go neither to the forest, nor to the lake. But I have to survive somehow. I go to Stanytsya Luhanska by bike as I can earn at least something there. You see, I don’t even have money to buy a new tire for the bike”, complains Oleksandr.
He says that no one has perished in the village. Although there was a lot os shelling around, nothing landed in the village but for one shell which hit the roof of his neighbour’s barn. He roof is still broken.
Valentyna lives in Syze with her husband. There is a sign “Mines” in front of her house. A landscape with a ditch can be seen from the window — these are pro-Russian militants’ positions.
Valentyna says that everyone has forgotten about the residents of Syze. Buses do not go to the village, there is neither a post office nor a shop. They live only on humanitarian aid and if it was not for international missions they would probably starve to death.
Valentyna’s husband remembers: he was mending something in his yard when a bullet fired from the side which is not controlled by Ukraine flew over his head. The second one cut the grass as it was flying.
The locals say that they are on friendly terms with Ukrainian servicemen whose positions are not far from the village. From time to time soldiers bring them some food or villagers treat militaries with grapes which grow in the village or with some other fruit or vegetables.
Valentyna writes poetry ans says that her poems are divided into three periods: before the war, during it and “after the end”. She says, if there is no more shooting, then the war is over.
“I am Russian, it it the reason to shoot me?”, asks the woman.
She watches only Russian TV as Ukrainian channels do not broadcast here. It is necessary to buy a satellite antenna to watch them and she has no money for this. Oleksandr, who cannot afford a new tire, has no money either.
Syze is not the only locality which is on the verge of a humanitarian disaster. People who live here say: “Everyone has forgotten about us. No one needs us.”
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