In Kramatorsk, IDPs are dreaming of coming back home, even to their bare walls. The distance that separates them from home is much longer. A lot of them cannot cover it. A lot of them have no home.
“I HAVE LIVED THE WHOLE LIFE — AND WITHIN A MOMENT BECAME A BEGGAR...”
In July 2014, the bus which Vira Serafimivna was on was shelled. She was wounded, then she had two heart attacks and stroke, and spent several months in hospital in Kramatorsk. She did not come back to occupied Horlivka and remained in the IDP support center of NGO “Country of Free People”.
Photo: Vira Serafimivna was wounded; she had two heart attacks and stroke, and spent several months in hospital in Kramatorsk
There is a banner above the Center gate “Temple of Holly Spirit. Salvation! Liberation! Healing! Blessing!”
The founder of the Center is Serhiy Khomenko, paster of a charismatic Christian Church “New Generation”. He bought a house in Transportna Street to open a church there. Then the war began. In August 2014, when Russian troops seized Novoazovsk, Khomenko made the decision that he had to give shelter to refugees. He supports his words with the words from the Bible, Gospel of Matthew, “I don't want to be a goat; I want to be a sheep”.
At that time about 100 people, mostly women and children, got accommodation there. Serhiy and volunteers brought people from towns and villages on the battleline: Piski, Vodyane, Tryokhizbenka, Novotroyitske, Stanytsya Lyhanska. In February 2015, they evacuated hundreds of people from Debaltseve which was being shelled.
At present, several families mostly from Horlivka and notorious Piski, which is near the Donetsk airport, are living there.
Photo: At present, several families mostly from Horlivka and notorious Piski, which is near the Donetsk airport, are living there
Serhiy's colleague, volunteer from Horlivka Oleksandr Petrov, helps IDPs to solve legal problems and to get humanitarian aid.
A lot of them have problems: the migration service does not stamp IDPS' certificates, but the Pension Fund and the social security department do not pay out the subsidies without the stamp. The bureaucracy has not been overcome yet.
- The bank cards are blocked, first the one to get the pension, then the one to get the social payment. What to do then? Vira Serafimivna complains.
IDPs have problems with employment and accommodation too. The essence of the problems is explained by Oleksandr Petrov in one word, “No. No employment, no accommodation”.
WHEN WE COME BACK
- Our life was good... Olena recalls her life before the war. Olena Volodymyrivna is an IDP from Zhdanivka, the Donetsk region.
- When they started shelling, it was scary to go to work — the way there was between the Ukrainian militaries' positions and the separatists' ones. Artillery, Grads, battles at checkpoints... We used to sit down on the floor and pray when the shelling started. What else could we do?
The family found a shelter in a basement, without light, gas, and water. They spent a month and a half there. In October 2014, they decided to leave, first with the husband and the senior granddaughter, later their daughter with her younger daughter joined them. When they were leaving, Zhdanivka was almost empty.
At first, the family went to Yumpol in the Sumy region, Olena's native place. The woman says that the locals there did not welcome the family from the Donbas, “At school, the granddaughters were called “terrorists”. A year later the family moved to Kramatorsk.
Olena Volodymyrivna, IDP from Zhdanivka, the Donetsk region. Her family was living in a basement for a month and a half
As other IDPs, Olena has problems with payments: no pension, no subsidies for IDPs since March.
- The state takes away four thousand from us. My husband's pension of two thousand is suspended. The pension for the loss of breadwinner is suspended. We get only eighteen hundred as guardians, the woman calculates.
Her husband explains:
The security department says that they have received our paper and will keep them until the time when the problem with migration service stamps has been solved by the Cabinet of Ministers. If we get the certificate with the stamp, the information on payments will go to Kyiv... I have lived in Ukraine, I paid taxes. Why doesn't Ukraine pay the pension to me?
Olena calms down her upset husband. She believes that they will come back to Zhdanivka one day, “even if the flat is looted...”
A lot of IDPs have to go back to the occupied territory because they have no employment and accommodation. Oleksandr Petrov sadly states, “Ukraine is losing normal, adequate people, professionals”.
Oleksandr Yaroshchuk for The Ukrainian Pravda. Life
On the wrong bank of the war. Why Kramatorsk has not become home for IDPs. Part 2
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