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By Oksana Chelysheva

Little Ksenia, the great granddaughter of Galina, was born at 2.10 pm on March 28th. On the same day, at 11.35 pm, Galina was killed when her house on the outskirts of Donetsk was hit by an explosion. Galina had lived most of her life, during 50 years, in that house together with Nicolay, her husband. The splinters that killed Galina tore her mobile phone into pieces. At the moment of her death, the woman was on phone with one of her daughters, Natalia.

Roman, Galina’s grandson, tells, “The splinters hit her in the head, in the back, just behind the ear. My mom heard the scream. And then all was over”.

“The granny called my mom in panic when the shelling started,” says Roman. “My mom was trying to help her by calming her down and telling her to escape into the cellar. But at that moment, a shell exploded and the granny thought the house had taken fire. She decided to get out thinking it was safer there. But the entry door had already been damaged and she could not open it”.

The family of Natalia, Galina’s daughter, lives very close to the site of the tragedy, just 700 meters away. Roman recollects, “When the shelling started, my sister and I took cover in the room in which there were no windows. The granny called two minutes later. My mom hoped until the very end that the granny would survive. When I realized what was going on, I started to get ready to rush to the granny’s. But the Emergency Situations Ministry people called as soon as they arrived at the site and said that the granny was gone”.

Galina’s death is not the first loss in the Frolov’s. It took Nicolay, Galina’s husband, first. It happened in October 2014 soon after the armed conflict had begun. When the first missile hit the yard of Nikolai and Galina’s house on October 7th, they still didn’t leave. “It took grandparents a few weeks to finally make up their minds”, says Roman. Nikolai died of a heart attack at 10am the following day after they had been moved to a safe place in the center of Donetsk. “He suffered a lot when the war started. He could not live through it. He could not remain indifferent to the first damages in the house that he was building his whole life. He built this house by himself. He got back home from the mine and built the house. He had a weekend and built the house”.

On the day when Natalia, his daughter, was born, Nikolai planted a fur tree. He brought a very young plant from Vilnius – then a part of the USSR. He wanted to remember that trip. The tree from Vilnius responded to the care. It grew beautiful and strong. “It died the day after the shelling that killed the granny,” says Roman. “Its trunk was heavily damaged by splinters. The next night was very windy and the tree fell down”.

The house itself is also doomed. “We would not be able to restore it, – Roman says. When we came there after the granny’s death, there was no single room without a damage. I collected up to four big splinters in all the rooms. Besides, there is a mine below the surface of the spot where it is located. There were cracks in the walls even before. But my grandparents managed to create a family with strong ties. We were able to take care of the house all together. But now it is me, my sister and my mom left,” says Roman.

Galina’s favorite niece was killed on January 31st, 2017. In similar circumstances. It was shelling. She lived in the street running parallel to Galina’s. After that death, Galina moved out. Together with her dog, named Fly. This young ginger dog became very dear to Galina after someone left a puppy a year ago next to her gate. She raised the dog. “Winter this year was very cold. The granny moved to us to keep warm. But every day she went to her Fly to feed the dog,” recalls Roman. Fly survived the shelling. But now she is waiting for Roman and his family to get back home.

Galina was one of the internally displaced citizens of Ukraine for around a year and a half. After her husband’s death, she agreed to move to Russia’s Belgorod, where her other daughter had moved to with the start of the war. She lived with them for more than a year but she was missing her house and she came back. After her niece’s death in January, she together with Natalia’s family and their two dogs again moved out of their houses. Their friend’s family invited them in. But they could not capture Galina’s cats, and on February 23rd she came back to her house.

“You know, some 40 people attended her funeral,” Roman told me. “Believe me, it is a lot for our part of Donetsk. If people still have something to live in, they prefer to not come out…”

When asked what Roman thinks of Kiev, he says, “I love Kiev as much as any other town of Ukraine. What I detest is not Kiev but people who wage and support this war. I am a Ukrainian myself. I never thought myself to be Russian. My granny, born in Dnepropetrovsk, sang Ukrainian songs. But gradually, with the war, she stopped singing them . My grandfather Nikolai was born in Sumy and spent his childhood and youth in Ternopil. But Donbass became their home. Now I feel that we, people living in Donbass are different from both Russians and Ukrainians. I regard myself now as one of Donbass”.

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