New Life in Lugansk

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.
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Good News!

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.


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First help after three years of prison

“Greetings. I’m Dima ****, I want to thank you and your team for the provided help. It was the first I’ve seen in the three years of prison! Thank you!”
In mid-January I wrote a post about POWs who were exchanged by Ukraine and the Republics. Some of them turned out to have nothing at all to their name–their houses are on the other side, in Ukraine, which considers them “separatists” and which kept them in captivity. Many have homes right on the front lines, but just on the other side. They were settled in a dorm in Lugansk.
I was then approached by an internet-friend, who didn’t know whom else to turn to. Or rather, he approached everyone he could find to ask for help. We went to the dorm ourselves. Or, rather–I was still in Moscow, our Lugansk Zhenya went.
At that time, these former POWs were literally starving and had nothing, not even elementary personal hygiene items. They weren’t just military men, but also women and ordinary civilians. For example, those who helped organize the referendum in another part of the Lugansk Region, in Rubezhnoye, Severodonetsk, Lisichansk, and other towns. Which are now under Ukraine. We collected money for these people and brought them food. After we left, they were helped by the Red Cross, some social organizations, and even the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. They also started to receive help from local inhabitants and volunteers. I’m glad many people read my post, and help arrived not only through us.
 

Sofiya and Nastya

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.


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Ira and Petya

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…


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Survivors of Captivity

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.

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“Separatists”

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…


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“Nobody needs us there”

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.

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The Real Deal

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.

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Helping Vitaliy

Vitaliy and his family lost everything. Yet they were among the first who stood up to defend what they believed in. Vitaliy joined the militia in the spring of 2014. Now they are without home and without health. Their son has been constantly losing consciousness after he and his mother were kept in a cellar for a whole day by the SBU, having to hold their hands over their heads. After captivity, and after Natasha and their son spent six months in hiding, the family has made it to Lugansk. But their house is “over there.”
We wrote about them recently, and that post really resonated. I’m glad that because of that response we were able to help them. And we continue to do so. Zhenya and Lena have done a ton of work. They take them to hospitals, clinics. As of right now, the matter of passports is moving forward, and they should be issued in near future.
Vitaliy may even manage to get work (the process is ongoing).
But the main thing is that now they have hope. They were deeply depressed when we first met them.
They didn’t expect help. So many journalists photographed and wrote about them. But no aid followed.
I want to thank once again all of our people. Thank you for the responses, for comments, and especially for the money that you contributed for this family. I am at a loss for words. Thank You!
Zhenya, who’s been seeing this family the whole month, said this: “Dunya, they are finally smiling. That’s a lot.”


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