Larisa’s husband and son went off to defend their home on the Donbass in early 2014. The son was 20, when the war began he took up arms. They both defended Severodonetsk. Now this city is under Ukraine. During the UAF breakthrough, they both served at an outpost between Severodonetsk and Rubezhnoye. The father sent the son to Dremov to get reinforcements. They arrived–the father and others were brought out from under fire. But not everyone was evacuated, some remained. But here’s the interesting thing: there was a local “forest ranger”. It’s not his call sign, he genuinely was one. He brought the UAF through back trails to encircle those who remained. Who were all killed. Then he ran from his “hometown”, knowing his days there were numbered after what he did. Valera, Larisa’s husband, died later, in Kirovsk in April 2015. He is buried on the Alley of Glory in Stakhanov. The son suffered a serious wound after that.
To some, living in Lugansk seems like something taken from the pages of fiction, literally a life under machine-gun fire or in Chernobyl after the accident. But in reality, to many people it’s long-sought salvation.
Thus Lugansk has become a new home to those who were exchanged for Ukrainian POWs.
You’ve learned of some of them from my reports, those are the people we are helping with setting up their new lives.
They are difficult, these lives, since these people left everything they had over there, on the other side. There is no way back.To where their parents and relatives live. Where their homes and lives used to be.
Starting over from nothing, with children, ailments.
We visited Petya and Ira in March. Petya was freed in December, after two years in captivity. He and dozens of others were exchanged for Ukrainian POWs. His wife and three kids abandoned everything and followed their husband and father to LPR. Crossed the border by some miracle, and now live all together in a dorm in Lugansk. I wrote about them earlier–click on the Ira and Petya tag at the bottom of this post. Petya used to be a coal miner, then joined the militia after he saw how the UAF was bombing peaceful civilians.
The family is struggling, they are starting over from zero, far away from relatives and family. But they are together, they truly love one another, and are happy to have each other. Even strangers see it.
You know, I think it’s possible to predict how the kids will turn out on the basis of how parents interact. They have amazing kids. Moscow Zhenya and I can’t get enough of them. Charming, merry, and very lively. In spite of what they lived through.
They lived in the midst of war that whole time. Ira and Petya’s house is on the border close to Pervomaysk, but just on the other side. They watched people die. And still can’t get used to the fact the shooting isn’t constant.
Sofiya and Nastya are sisters and one can say with certainty they are children of war. Nastya was born in the summer of 2013, while Sofiya in October 2014, at the height of fighting in Lugansk. They have known no life other than war. The family lost its home and now lives in a dorm. The girls, thank God, have a family–they have loving parents, but both are de-facto disabled.
In December there was a prisoner exchange between the Republics and Ukraine. Among them was Petya who’s been in captivity for about 2 years. He and his wife Ira and thee kids lived in the village of Zolotoye-4. Near Pervomaysk, but on the Ukrainian side. Petya joined the militia: “When they started to kill us from aircraft–we all knew who was doing it, saw the planes, and I couldn’t just sit at home.” Several of their neighbors perished right in front of them. Died on the spot.
Petya’s parents and sister left for Western Ukraine 8 years earlier. When the Donbass was bombed, before Petya joined the militia he called them. Called to hear the voices of relatives, hear words of support, share the shock of what he saw–it was impossible to accept and understand what just happened. Nobody could believe what was happening–aircraft, and bombs falling onto ordinary homes. His own mother told him: “It’s your own fault.” Then he called the sister, who answered: “What did mother tell you? She was right, don’t call us anymore.”
They’ve had no contact since. An ordinary story–there are hundreds of such relations, people who refuse to believe what the relatives from Donbass say, who don’t want to hear anything and who believe that “it’s their own fault.”
Dear God, how many times have I heard these words…How many times…
Our friends. That’s what we call them–“survivors of captivity.”
Things are improving. The whole family has passports, and not without our help. I’m glad this blog contains not only sad stories but also positive ones, when one has something to smile about or be proud of. I’m glad you and us were to help this family.
All the documents, and all of their lives, remained over there, in Ukraine. Where both husband and wife have arrest warrants for “separatism.” There is no way back for them. Everything–their property and belongings, elderly parents, relatives, is back there. But they don’t have any contact with anyone anymore, “so that nobody is placed in danger.”
They went through a grinder. Vitaliy spent a long time in captivity in Ukraine where he had all of his teeth knocked out and was badly injured. Natasha and her son was in hiding until they managed to escape into LPR where they finally were able to relax. Vitaliy was in the militia from the start. Natasha helped organized the referendum in Rubezhnoye. It’s a miracle they were able to hide. They went from apartment to apartment for months, unable to even go out to shop…
Now they live in a Lugansk dorm. Their son has improved, the problem was in poor nutrition of the whole family. He’s had several hunger-induced blackouts, nervous system issues, and serious headaches.
Here is another post about our friends from Rubezhnoye. Who survived captivity in Ukraine.
How are things? It depends.
But the main thing that makes our team happy is that the boy, their son, now feels fine at last.
His fainting spells passed. As did the headaches.
They visited every conceivable doctor, including a dentist. I think it was not a matter of diagnosis and treatment.
The boy simply needed decent food which the family could not afford.
Calm and, of course, the parents who do not fear tomorrow…
Iosif Yuryevich has been disabled since childhood.
No family. No apartment. Or, already no apartment.
He’s from Pervomaysk. That same LPR Pervomaysk.
In August ’14 Yosif Yuryevich left for Kharkov.
He was in Ukraine until spring ’17.
Then he returned.
Returned to Pervomaysk, which is on the line of separation.
To the city on the very edges of continued fighting.
The top floor of the dorm. A tiny room full of beds.
A slender boy with welts under his eyes, wizened woman with a straight back and beautiful hair, and the unbearably thin Vitaliy, holding a napkin to his mouth
–May I hug you?
That’s the first thing I heard Natasha say when we met.
We had a long conversation.
It defies description.
It defies transmission.