I have visited the Donbass so many times already that all the years are running together. But this trip stands out for several reasons. Including bicycles and empty bus stops.
There are many cyclists on the roads. Big groups, small groups, with backpacks, without–there are really many of them. Several times more than ever before.
There is also far less Republic symbolism along the roads. There was a time, particularly during the summer of 2015, when all the bus stops were repainted. One could see pathos-laden “Donbass, don’t be sad. We’ll break through”, “Donbass, hang on” slogans everywhere. I couldn’t keep up photographing them. But now they are almost all gone.
It’s hard to say what it means. And it’s odd to say it’s a desire to pretend there is no what, that people lead normal lives.
Normal life is an entirely different term there than for us, people for whom this war is “somewhere over there”. Luganchans, for example, say “back during the war”, indicating the summer-fall of 2014. Zhenya always speaks of the war in past tense. But the war for him is a given in which he lives. But then there was full-scale fighting in LPR’s capital. People stayed in the cellars. Without water or electricity, without internet or phone service. When they were afraid to go shopping and when they passed notes to relatives through route taxi drivers. For Pervomaysk, this situation lasted longer, until the spring of 2015. It is still the current reality for the outskirts of Donetsk.
Everyone realizes that if this is repeated in LPR, it will be the end of the war. Not clear what kind of an end, but it will means something. And I can’t say that the words “when it starts”, frighten for ordinary people. Rather it seems it’s something they await with great impatience.
Pharmacies are still half-empty, it’s hard to find work. But pensions and benefits are being paid regularly.
Hospitals are full, and many of those whom we helped are no longer among the living.
–Please leave, I don’t need anything. Please leave.
We asked her neighbor to come with us or at least explain we simply brought aid. That we are not asking for anything.
But the woman sat on the threshold, on the other side of the door, and only kept on crying and asking us to leave. I didn’t immediately understand what was happening. The neighbor said she hasn’t left the house since 2014. Through her crying, it became clear the woman thought we were Ukrainian soldiers. She’s elderly and she apparently doesn’t fully realize what’s happening in the city. But she is so terrorized she was afraid to open the door even to her neighbor.