Жизнь во время войны на Донбассе / Wartime Life in East Ukraine

older woman living in wartime Donbas

Audio content: Several women describe their decision to remain living in villages that have been under heavy fire during the fighting in eastern Ukraine.
Visual content: Images of wartime destruction in some Ukrainian villages and small towns.

Excerpted clips are posted below. You can view the entire report in high-quality video at TV Rain. (A subscription or one-time payment is required, but your money goes toward a good cause — supporting one of the last independent TV news organizations in Russia.)

The war in Eastern Ukraine has been in the news again, sadly, as the conflict that began in April 2014 flared up again in early February 2017, soon after President Trump’s inauguration. The Ukrainian government based in Kiev continues to battle the pro-Russian separatist regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, which have been functioning as self-declared autonomous governments under the names “Donetsk People’s Republic” (Донецкая народная республика) and “Lugansk People’s Republic” (Луганская народная республика). (The entire region is often called “Donbas,” an abbreviation of “Донецкая бассейн,” i.e. the basin of the Donets River.) Russia, despite official denials, is supporting the breakaway regions with both troops and supplies. Hostilities first began in the wake of the late-2013 “Maidan” revolution in Kiev, which deposed the pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in favor of a pro-European-Union government. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in spring 2014 is another part of this same geopolitical conflict, which arises from Russia’s desire to maintain its sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. Since Ukraine used to actually be part of the USSR, it seems that Putin is not willing to let the country drift out of Russia’s sphere of influence entirely without putting up a fight. The Kremlin’s goal in eastern Ukraine is probably not to fully annex the pro-Russian regions, as happened with Crimea; instead, Russia, via the internationally-brokered negotiation process in Minsk, Belarus, is urging Kiev to grant a large degree of autonomy to the eastern territories — which could then function as a sort of Russian foothold within Ukraine. The “Minsk Agreements” have produced temporary ceasefires and incomplete political resolutions but have failed to stop the violence permanently. The latest surge in violence was centered on the town of Avdiievka, which is not far from some of the villages featured in today’s videos. Besides the rise in violence, the eastern Ukraine conflict also entered the news recently when Russia controversially declared it would recognize passports from the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. The Ukrainian conflict also factors into concerns over the Trump administration’s ties to Russia. Specifically, it has been reported that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen brought a peace plan to the White House that would have the US and Ukraine essentially recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea (by granting Russia a long-term “lease”) in exchange for peace in the eastern regions. The plan was given to Cohen by a Ukrainian parliament member who has now been accused of treason.

The videos featured in this post are excerpted from an early 2016 report by TV Rain. TV Rain sent the reporter Viktoriia Ivleva into some Ukraine-controlled territories very close to the border with the breakaway republics. Ivleva brought humanitarian supplies as well as video cameras. Although the footage is over a year old, it gives us insight into what life probably looks like for residents of the same region today. Ivleva talks to some tough yet traumatized people who, through a mixture of courage, stubbornness and a lack of better options, have stayed in their village homes despite the war. During active periods in the fighting, artillery fire severely damaged most of their homes and forced many of them to live in their basements. The communities presented in the video are Sjeverne (Северное, Ясиноватский район), Opytne (Опытное, Артёмновский район) and Krasnohorivka (Красногоровка, Донецкая область).

For more on this topic see my earlier posts on the Maidan and on life in Crimea after annexation.

Заметки о языке: The most notable linguistic feature of these videos is the distinctive pronunciation of the letter “г” as something closer to the letter “х,” a typical feature of the southwest Russian or eastern Ukrainian dialect of Russian.

 

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Excerpt 1

You can view the entire report in high-quality video at TV Rain. (A subscription or one-time payment is required, but your money goes toward a good cause — supporting one of the last independent TV news organizations in Russia.)

 

Russian Transcript

Ивлева: А где вас ранило? Прямо здесь дома?

Мария Петровна, жительница города Красногоровка: Да, вот тут этот самый ранил, [??] горит, дом горит, всё свистят, бомбят, гремят, это нельзя передать. Я до сих пор не могу спать, понимаете, не могу. Если передремлю два каких-то часа, полтора, по пятнадцать – двадцать минут… вот этак. А так, невозможно. Этот страх у меня в глазах, и… всё. Это гремит и все пылает.

[…] Я не знаю, с чего начало, в чём причина, я не знаю. Я не могу никого винить. Ни одних, ни других, а я хочу мира. Вот и всё. Чтобы только ни баха, ни буха и чтоб не разбивали…

 

Excerpt 2

You can view the entire report in high-quality video at TV Rain. (A subscription or one-time payment is required, but your money goes toward a good cause — supporting one of the last independent TV news organizations in Russia.)

 

Russian Transcript

Валентина, жительница города Красногоровка: Вот там гаубица упала, полтретьего ночи, под домом. Так у нас по трубам вот так вот, было такое впечатление, что она к нам в подвал упала.

Валентина: Вот “Град.”

Ивлева: Те, кто мог уехать, уехали?

Валентина: Если есть людям куда уехать… Ну квартиры тоже не бросим. Потому что мародёров очень много.

Ивлева: Ну чё, получается, квартира дороже жизни?

Валентина: А уезжать куда? Вы думаете, те, которые уехали — со мной они общаются — им хорошо?

Ивлева: Лучше, чем здесь.

Валентина: Нет! Работы нет. И они же думали, что они попадут в Россию, в Москву. А попали в Амурскую область.

Ивлева: А они все в Москву хотели?

Валентина: Все в Москву. Ну, потому что когда они учились в школе, у них Москва, это была столица России. А теперь они все захотели туда.

Ивлева: То есть, Москва была столица Советского Союза…

Валентина: Даже по Украине. Они выехали в такие сёла. А в сёлах надо работать. А не все могут работать на земле. То есть, не каждому дано там за свиньями ухаживать, коров доить. Стонут, плачут. А как вернуться теперь? Куда возвращаться? Пока некуда. Девятиэтажки две, полностью разграблены.

Ивлева: …где бы не были их жизни в опасности, а ваши нет.

Валентина: Ну, вы знаете, уезжать, это тоже не выход из положения. Кто-то здесь тоже должен остаться.

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Excerpt 3

 

You can view the entire report in high-quality video at TV Rain. (A subscription or one-time payment is required, but your money goes toward a good cause — supporting one of the last independent TV news organizations in Russia.)

 

Russian Transcript

Ивлева: Бабуля, а уехать не хотите?

Бабушка: А куда ехать?

Ивлева: А нету родственников?

Бабушка: Нам ехать некуда. Если мы здесь пятьдесят лет прожили, куда ехать? Кто нас ждёт?

Ивлева: Думаете, никто не ждёт?

Бабушка: А кто ждёт? Родственники! Все здесь, родственники. Так что сидим здесь и никуда не собирались, не уехали, и не собираемся уезжать. Что будет, то будет. Выживем, выживем. А не выживем. Может, Бог даст, что и выживем.

Ивлева: Конечно, даст.

Бабушка: Думаем, что можно закончится скоро, война эта, бессмысленная. Кому она нужна, эта война?

 

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English Translations

Excerpt 1

Ivleva: And where were you wounded? Right here at home?

Maria Petrovna, resident of the town of Krasnogorovka: Yes, right here that thing wounded me [??] is burning, the house is burning, they are all whistling and bombing and thundering — it’s impossible to communicate. Up until now I can’t sleep, you understand, I can’t. If I doze for two or so hours, or one and a half, it’s for fifteen or twenty minutes at a time… that’s how it is. But otherwise, it’s impossible. That fearful sight is in front of my eyes, and… that’s it. It thunders and keeps burning.

[…] I don’t know what it started from, what the reason is, I don’t know. I can’t blame anyone. Neither some nor the others — but I want peace. That’s all. So that there just won’t be anymore booming and banging, and so that they won’t be destroying…

 

Excerpt 2

Valentina, resident of the city of Krasnogorovka: Right there a haubitzer [type of artillery] fell,  at 2:30 AM, under the house. And it was like this all along our pipes, you had the impression that it had fallen into the basement where we were.

Valentina: Here’s a Grad (type of artillery).

Ivleva: Those who were able to leave left?

Valentina: If the people have a place they can go to… Well, we also won’t abandon our apartments. Because there are very many looters.

Ivleva: Well, what? It turns out, an apartment is more valuable than a life?

Valentina: And where should we leave to? Those who left — they are in contact with me — do you think that things are good for them?

Ivleva: Better than here.

Valentina: No! There’s no work. And they thought that they would end up in Russia, in Moscow. And they ended up in Amur region.

Ivleva: They all wanted to go to Moscow?

Valentina: All of them to Moscow. Well, because when they were in school, Moscow, for them, that was the capital of Russia. And now they all wanted to go there.

Ivleva: That is, Moscow was the capital of the Soviet Union…

Valentina: Even in Ukraine [people identified with Moscow]. They all went out [evacuated, presumably] to villages. And in villages one needs to work. And not everyone can work on the land. That is, not every person gets the chance to watch the pigs, milk the cows. They are groaning, crying. And now how can they return? To where can they return? For now, there is nowhere. [Points] Two nine-story buildings, completely looted.

Ivleva: …where their lives would be safe [not in danger], while yours are not.

Valentina: Well, you know, leaving, that’s also not a way out of this situation. Someone also needs to stay here.

 

Excerpt 3

Ivleva: Grandmother, don’t you want to leave?

Elderly woman: And where should I leave to?

Ivleva: Don’t you have any relatives?

Elderly woman: We don’t have anywhere to go to. If we lived here for fifty years, where should we go to? Who is waiting for us [i.e. would welcome us]?

Ivleva: You think no one is waiting for you?

Elderly woman: Who is waiting for us? Relatives! They are all here, the relatives. So we sit here and didn’t plan to go anywhere, didn’t leave, and we don’t plan now to leave. What will be, will be. If we survive, we survive. And if we don’t survive… Maybe God will grant that we survive.

Ivleva: Of course, he will grant that.

Elderly woman: We think that it’s possible it will end soon, this war, this senseless thing. Who needs it, this war?

 

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