Two years ago all of us got new neighbours. New moms with perambulators. New senior ladies in queues. New shop assistants in a shop nearby. They were internally displaced persons looking for peace in strange cities. IDPs who sometimes bore the stigma of “poorly-educated Donbas marginals”. The truth is they are different...
Before the war broke out, Natalya used to work as a lawyer for a private company. It was quite possible to say that her life was successful and happy. She has a loving husband, a child and an own house. She says, she was very fortunate to have good neighbours who were like her family. They used to live in Krupska street. In the vicinity of Donetsk Airport... There used to be one hundred and forty-four houses in the neighbourhood. Now, there are only four left. Natalya’s house has not been destroyed yet. A mine which hit it caused little damage and the walls endured it. Looters have caused much more troubles. However, this fact does not matter any more. There is desert around the house and the vicinity looks like decorations for “Stalker”, a film by Andriy Tarkovsky, a Soviet director. As many other residents of the Donbas, her family had a choice, they could remain in Ukraine or they could go to Russia. Her relatives invited her to stay with them in the Rostov-on-Don region (the Russian Federation). There was a place to live there and she was offered a very good job.
But they say it was impossible. It would be impossible even next to close people who managed not to get hooked up on Russian propaganda. It would be impossible for them to live in the country which deprived them of their home.
Life in Kyiv was extremely hard first. They literally had to start from scratch. Natalya’s husband’s friends helped them to find some accommodation and for nearly half a year they paid utility bills only. This gave the family an opportunity to analyze the situation and to begin life anew.
OLX (Ukrainian analogue of EBAY) helps a little. Sometimes she manages to sell something at exhibitions and fairs, although she rarely goes to fairs now. There you have to pay one thousand five hundred hryvnyas per place and there is no guarantee that you will be able to sell enough to compensate this sum, and in the family budget this money is always necessary.
It would be unfair to say that the state does not care about them at all. It pays eight hundred and eighty hryvnyas to their child regularly and almost without arrears. The rest of the problems they have to solve themselves. As it has turned out, if you sell toys, you can earn enough to rent a flat. It is not in the centre of the city and it is tiny, but it is possible to live even in a studio with your family. Now, they have no place to return to in Donetsk. Even when the war is over. Just because home is not only walls. It is also the street you live in, your friends and neighbours who are scattered all around the world now. It is also the feeling of calmness and protection which no one will be able to restore now.
Still, Natalya dreams of peace. It does not only mean the end of the war and shellings. She dreams to see Ukraine coming back into her Donetsk. Just because she knows so many people who had to stay there and who are waiting for Ukraine to return.
Olha’s husband went to the centre of the district to look for a job. Instead of this, he found a girl who let him live with her. At this moment Olha’s family life was over.
A month later another man entered her life. At that time she did not know that his name was Gordiy. She did not know anything about him then. He appeared in her life all of a sudden, with two strips on the pregnancy test. He was the last “goodbye” from her husband.
None of her little family was able to tell her any word of consolation. Her oldest son is autistic. He is a good boy but he is completely non-verbal. Her daughter did not speak yet. One more child was born a little more than six months later. She had no job, no accommodation and no prospects.
Olha was sitting and crying. She was scared, miserable and she did not know any way out. The owner of the summer house where she was living at that time was crying together with her and promised: “Everything will be fine. Just trust me. We will not let you down. Do you trust me?” Tears were rolling down Olha’s cheeks as she said: “Yes, I trust you”.
Vovka is nearly nine years old now. He is still non-verbal but he helps his mother as he is the oldest man in the family. He washes up, clears dishes off the table and carries shopping bags. Eve, Olha’s daughter, can speak now and she does it non-stop. She is in that funny age when kids keep asking their parents “Why?..” Eve goes to nursing school. Vovka goes to special school for autistic children. Hordiy is a little more than six months old and he is trying to make his first steps. And Olha is waiting for the time when she will be able to send Hordiy to nursing school and start work.
She did not know that there were people who care around. Those people helped her rent a flat and send Vovka to school. The rest she manages to do herself. If there are no arrears on social benefits payments, she has enough money to pay for nursing school, for nappies and even for the Internet. When she will be able to earn more and her life will be easier. They will survive. Just because she believes in this.
Transit destinies. 10 stories of women who have no definite place of residence. Part 1
Transit destinies. 10 stories of women who have no definite place of residence. Part 2
Transit destinies. 10 stories of women who have no definite place of residence. Part 3
Lesya Lytvynovа, TV director, coordinator of centre for IDPs (Frolovska str., 9/11), Co-founder of “Svoi” Charity Fund, migrants.zn.ua
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