At the New Year’s Matinee in Donbass, Parents Did Not Hold Back Their Emotions

On the last Sunday of the year we went to Trudovskoye. There, near school No. 106, destroyed by Ukrainian shells, it was planned to hold a New Year matinee for the local children. The irony is that this school destroyed by the “warriors of light” [Ukrainian terrorists – ed] was the most Ukrainian.

Baba Yaga & Co

We conceived the morning not just for nothing, but with a script and a bunch of fabulous characters: Ded Moroz – volunteer Andrey Lysenko; Snegurochka – the little girl from Trudovskoye Liliya Kravets, who, by the way, dreams of becoming a journalist; Grey Wolf – 16-year-old Maksim also from Trudovskoye; Kikimora – Irina Petrovskaya, the author of the script and our costumes, also living in Trudovskoye; and, finally, Baba Yaga – played by your humble servant. It so happens that I’ve been playing this role for years. And I’m still doing it! After all, I have a wonderful gutta-percha mask and the reaction of children and adults to it is always fun for me. Well, what is it that Goethe says? I am a part of that force that eternally wants bad and eternally does good.

Kikimora, played by Irina, on the eve of the morning calls all the surrounding children and invites them to the yard of school No. 106. Schools where they could all study, and some did study, for others the Ukrainian shells forced them to look for another place.

“My mother studied in this school, then me, then all my children, but the grandchildren had to study here too, but the school was struck,” says Irina in her Kikimora makeup with fun freckles that very much contrast with the words that she utters.

UAF surpassed fascists

In the school building alone there were up to ten direct hits, countless shells lay in the school yard and in the stadium, all the walls shredded by shrapnel, as if they were shredded by the claws of a distraught beast. Full of tank hits, through which you can see the sky. And the whole yard is full of holes from explosions.

“This school was built in 1936, it was destroyed by fascists in the war, then it was restored by the Soviet people in 1946, and now it’s been destroyed by Ukrainian Nazis,” Irina said. “It is not safe to be inside it. The school is deemed irrecoverable. And trees are already growing on its roof. This is how ukrops did what even their German idols failed to do.”

Meanwhile, Andrey Lysenko loads gifts, and we go on our way. A decent crowd of people – almost 150 children – had already gathered near the school! Our assistants set up a Christmas tree, and we started the show. We were very afraid of the reaction of the children to my mask, and if anyone will accept it, our Donetsk children will. They’ve seen worser and more ominous things than this, the most real things, which had been pounding their homes and schools for seven years from the waste grounds.

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We organised competitions – who rides a broom, who is a worker of Ded Moroz, we listened to the poetry of the children, we led a khorovod and we danced. At some point I felt like I was already suffocating under the mask, but I didn’t show it. Surprisingly, in front of the evil spirits there was a queue of people who wanted to be photographed together. Andrey – Ded Moroz – gave the children sweet gifts and soft toys. Everyone was happy and joyful. How much do these unspoiled children need? Paradoxically, they are even happier than their contemporary peers, the unexperienced know how to rejoice in everything. When they all finally left, I could take the mask off and take a full breath.

Basements became a saviour

I am proposed to examine the basement of the school, where people lived for 9 months. More than a 100 people were housed in three small rooms. Now it is even difficult to imagine, at the same time it happened and still was happening relatively – in 2014-15. Steep steps lead to the basement. How did 80-year-old women go down them, who were driven into the basement by the army of their native country in old age?

“They went down, and they went up. This basement wasn’t originally here, it was built after the Patriotic War, as if they knew that it would be useful. Here there is both an emergency exit and ventilation system,” said the school janitor Vladimir, showing me around. “It was unsafe to stay in houses, but my family and I were trapped in our home basement. How we got out with the children from under the collapsed walls, how we fled here, to the school basement under continuous shelling – how ever long I will live I will not be able to forget this!”

Ukrainians smashed a Ukrainian school first

It is symbolic that on the central facade of the school there is a Ukrainian blue-yellow flag, and above it the inscription: “Welcome! Donetsk!” Ukrainian school! It turns out that the lads shot directly at the visible flag – there is no living space on the wall..

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“And most importantly – they saw very well where their shells were flying and that there is are military personnel – only pensioners and small children. Our Trudovskoye was shelled for the first time on Poroshenko’s birthday, the Ukrainian army sought to please its guarantor. That day alone, nine civilians died in our village! And then we lost count. Snipers constantly worked, smoking a cigarette in the dark could cost a man, immediately a bullet would fly,” said Nataliya Nikolaevna, whose house has been practically destroyed by the UAF. “134 people came running down here to the basement on the first day! Like a mitten in a fairy tale, the basement accommodated everyone – from recently born babies in pushchairs to very elderly people who do not understand what is going on. Even the paralysed lay here! In such conditions – in view of each other, literally, shoulder to shoulder, we lived here without light and water for a long nine months. Infants in the basement started to take their first steps. We were warming near the small stove, sometimes not going to the surface for eight hours when the shelling took place. Whenever they could volunteers brought food, unloaded it, and immediately left. Everyone ate mivina and canned food.”

She tells me that the steam from the human breath settled and dripped down the walls as water.

“It was remembered how the head of one family was going to make a trip for water and bread. And he had his old mother, wife with a baby in her arms, and a 4-year-old daughter in his basement. So he says to her, ‘You, sweetheart, don’t be afraid, it’s thunder rumbling, I’ll be back soon, I’ll bring you food’. And the child is looking at her father and suddenly so seriously responds: ‘Dad, it’s not thunder. It is bad people killing us,” tears flow down the face of Nataliya Nikolaevna.

So who to hate?

In the basement now there are improvised beds – from school boards and desks. They have rolled mattresses and blankets on them. On the floor – prepared flasks with water. On one of the desks I find a book – in Ukrainian! “Tale about the tax-collecting hedgehog.” This book was written once by the head of tax of the Donetsk region Vladimir Bondarenko and gifted to the children of Donetsk, bringing this generous gift on the Day of Protection of Children – June 1st 2012. It’s like it’s all in a different reality. But someone brought it here, to the basement, maybe to read or look at the pictures. And it sounds really surreal. In one Ukrainian school, the kids in the basement read a Ukrainian book while they were being shelled… oops! liberated … by the Ukrainian army. But I’m used to the fact that in places like this symbolism is usually off the scale to the point of absurdity.

“Where was I supposed to go, tell me?” My grandfather came here in 1912 to build mines from Oryol, and my father from Poltava. Who should I hate? My mother – Russian, or my father – Ukrainian?” Natalia Nicholas asks. “I also speak both Russian and Ukrainian languages. How you can erase your history, your ancestors. How can you glorify OUN UPA if their people were more afraid of them than the Germans? They cut their own, raped 8 to 80 year-olds, engaged in robbery and punishment. Now they are heroes in Ukraine, and we are separatists and cattle. How well they managed to ignite enmity between us. And after all, in Ukraine there are normal people who are now simply afraid to open their mouth and understand everything.”

For some reason, Zelensky did not remember these people in his recent New Year’s speech and pathetic appeals ‘Who are we?’ I would to answer by first of all asking who are you, who have destroyed the lives of so many people, who have razed their homes to the ground, and after that, what do you need to have in your heart to appeal for unity?

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Yuliya Andriyenko

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