An old friend recently wrote me a letter in which he was upset that, judging by my postings, one would think everything’s going badly in LPR. Because there are positive examples too. I could answer my readers that no, not everything is going badly. There are families whose affairs are in principle going well. Moreover, I would say there are people, everywhere, of a kind capable of surviving in any situation. And not only survive but find work or ways to make money even where it’s impossible. It’s as if they are literally a tank, they can fight to the end. But there aren’t so many of them. Since I mainly write about those who need help, my reports don’t include many positive examples. Not because they don’t exist, but because we help those who can’t help themselves. People with problems or in dire straits. Illness, loss of house, wounds. It’s single elderly, single moms with many kids, disabled.
And here’s what I wanted to say. If one were to work as an investigator, with time one starts thinking everyone around is a criminal. It’s a point of reference, a vantage point which influences one’s perception of the situation and the world as a whole. So it’s important to preserve clarity. I don’t know whether I have such clarity. What I see in LPR is, in most cases, sadness. It’s a region in a state of uncertainty where it’s nearly impossible to exist and improve one’s situation. The Republics are not recognized, formally they don’t exist, nearly all the economic ties have been interrupted, and yes, there’s fighting. People are getting by. But its possible my pessimism has to do with my vantage point, not objectivity. I don’t know.
But from what I see in shops, on the streets, and all the institutions I visit, people are for the most part surviving. Many (though not all, of course), those who could, left. I see heroic doctors, emergency first responders, utilities workers, who helped ordinary people under a rain of rockets. I see many genuine people, People with a capital P. But most of them are struggling. They have poverty wages, it’s hard to find work, and the prices in shops are like everywhere else. Many survive thanks to gardens and relatives. Possibly this is my own vantage point. Because barber shops, beauty salons, supermarkets where there are dozens of sausage brands and red fish keep on working. Sushi bars and restaurants are opening up, which apparently have a clientele? So there are consumers.
I also know that there are many families in the region who before the war lived well and coped with everything, and now can’t. For various reasons.
For example, the family of Yulia and Natasha. They are from an orphanage, and there’s nobody to help them. They have their own kids, twins, born in 2009, one can tell that readily from the photo. Sveta and Vladislav.
They live in Lugansk. Worked at a metallurgical plant, but then 80% of workforce was reduced. The remainder worked less than full days. Yulia managed with big difficulty to get a job as a janitor in school where her kids study. They go to school on foot, which takes over an hour. Regardless of weather, and it’s a daily saving of 60 rubles one way, money they don’t have.
The children are constantly sick. Last year they missed more than half the school year, and the medications consume a lot of money.
The parents earn a total of 7 thousand rubles a month, so it’s not all that bad by Lugansk standards. They both earn money, there is income. But they have nobody else. No grandmothers, aunts, and nephews. They are alone, and they survive with difficulty, trying as hard as they might. They don’t drink, they don’t miss work, but that’s not enough.
After delivering aid to them, Zhenya wrote:
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a reaction to food like that. Yulia’s hands were shaking, and she got a lump in her throat. She kept opening her mouth but couldn’t say anything…Sasha ran from the door so that one couldn’t see his tears. “It’s embarrassing”, he said later.”
And yes, I don’t know how things really are in LPR. Those indicators and numbers ministries produce do not tell the whole story. But I remember well my own shame in a supermarket, buying sausage and cheese, next to other people.
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