Rodions way home leads through a mine field. Right mines on the left of the mines, only narrow dirt road in the middle of the field. Last June, Rodion would be rolled up with his car, nevertheless, almost on an anti-tank mine, which was hidden in the Dirt on the roadside. Now the car is jerky on the last chunks of ice left in the spring left. A there is no other way to Opytne. In what remained of this village left.

The people in the destroyed villages in the East of Ukraine in need of food, clothing, and medicine. We will forward your help. Please donate to: IBAN DE90 2007 0000 0469 9500 01 – BIC DEUTDEHH – keyword “Eastern Ukraine”;

Rodion Lebedev had before the war, an auto body shop, and everything he deserved, he put in a new house, which should be large enough for his family: his wife and three children. As in the autumn of 2014, the first bullets flew over his yard, because the Ukrainian army was trying to stop the separatists, he had just let the last of the furniture into the bedroom. He hardly knows yet how many bullet holes he had counted since then, on his property. Six shells landed in the middle of the house.

“Probably suicide”

The war has not passed, neither from the village nor from Rodions life. Because first of all there is in Opytne, this is a suburb of Donetsk, for more than four years, no water, no Gas, no electricity, no shops, no school, no administration, no police. The only people still there, between the rubble, behind and twisted gates, on which is painted: “people live Here!”

And, secondly, the war is still his muffled Sounds. Mortars thunder, mines a beat, subdued, somewhere in the distance. And then re-close. Walls, quake, and the tea cups shaking on the table. A few days ago, Rodion listened to in the Morning, heavy weapons, maybe the artillery. “The beginning of the war, we ran into the basement,” he says. But most of the 50 residents no longer make use of Opytne. Some now live in the basement, because the houses are destroyed.


The blind Jelena Parschina, 68, gropes its way out of your house in Awdijiwka. In 2017, the roof was destroyed in an attack

©Joseph Sywenkyj/the star

Rodion controls the car into the village, past the skeletons of the jam factory, shattered greenhouses, the ruin that was once a house of culture. Absurd way street, friendship street, like everywhere in the village, no house is more quite. In his is still a room habitable, heated by wood, electricity comes from the Generator. The iron gate is riddled with bullets.

Just Granny Marija is a small old woman with head scarf. She lives alone, since her son was killed in an attempt to mend during a firefight in a gas line with tape. Because of the shootings, and they buried him in the yard. 2015. In the past few years, no one died in the village of shots, just because of the ambulance on the way to the village. Last summer, a grenade exploded in the hands of a neighbor. “But,” says Rodion, was “probably suicide.”

persevere in the Chaos of

For years, Rodion Deputy in the village Council, and now he also coordinates for the Ukrainian organization Proliska humanitarian aid in the village and in Awdijiwka, the town in the neighborhood. He is the Only one in Opytne, owns a car, so he brings bread, water, pension, candles and batteries, and distributes them to the neighbors, stuck defiantly in this mess.

“contact line” is the border between the separatist territories and the Ukraine officially, probably because the sounds for peace. The residents do not have more to say but “Front”, even if these moves for 2015. The OSCE counts on an almost daily basis hundreds of violations of the ceasefire agreement of Minsk, which was signed in February of 2015. Last month alone, have been taken, according to Proliska only on the Ukrainian side 43 homes, injured three people. Long the exchange of fire have grown into a sort of Routine, a permanent measure forces on both sides.

2.7 million people live, according to estimates by the UN at the 457-kilometre-long border, the residents of the people’s republics of Luhansk and Donetsk counting. 2.3 million people in need of help, only 1.3 million they got last year. Dozens of villages are as Opytne only on field paths and bump slopes.


“living people”, stands on the gate in Opytne. 50 people wait in the ruins of the village.

©Joseph Sywenkyj/the star

Of Kiev, the area seems to be forgotten. The presidential elections in the Ukraine, but here in the Donbass, the candidates do not show up in the first place. The conflict, in which, since 2014, more than 10,000 people were killed, has triggered an international diplomatic earthquake. As Russia picked him up, supported the separatists, fighting for independence from Kiev. The largest part of the budget of the area comes from the powerful neighbouring country, without Russia’s support, it would not be viable.

And yet, it seems, could use the Donbass in reality, no one. Initially, many residents dreamed on both sides of the border to Russia annexed the Ukrainian Peninsula of Crimea. However, of the “New Russia” talks in Moscow no one any longer. Also in Kiev, someone is not burning hardly any to incorporate the separatist regions in Ukraine, because the Ukrainians there and hatred that.

defiance and despair.

The relationship between Kiev and the Ukrainian part of the Donbass is also not harmonious. Many residents feel that their capital is ignored. “For the separatists in the national republics, we are traitors because we are living in the Ukraine,” says Rodion. “For the Ukrainians, we are not separatists, because we live in the Donbass.”

Rodion shows his village. Over trudges down the road to the ruins. In a Alexandr lives in the basement, in a different Sascha, pensioners and former electrician’s asleep, in the bathroom. “We live here in Paradise!”, he scoffs at. “In my living room, I even have air conditioning!” He points to the hole in the roof. In his spare time, he reads on the tiny table in his kitchen, old garden Newspapers to reassure.


Rodion Lebedev on the bed of his house. Only one room is habitable.

©Joseph Sywenkyj/the star

Some people don’t have to leave Opytne also because they wanted to protect their homes. Watched the beginning of the war, the village residents, such as Uniformed things from abandoned houses dragged. In the yards of the residents of the noc match h today, chain of dogs. Give up is not for Rodion out of the question. “I believe in the future of Opytne,” he says defiantly. The past years have changed him, he believes. Short-tempered he had become. Sometimes he did not know hardly what to do with his anger.

Today, Rodion had a good day, because the soldiers led him to Piski, there plastic sheeting and chipboard. The day before, three houses from mine launchers were hit. The village is another suburb of Donetsk and the vicinity of the Donetsk airport, a kind of Hotspot of the war. Is fought even now, although there is to conquer nothing more than rubble. Piski may not be entered without permission from the military, and yet, a dozen people live there still, in a mixture of defiance and despair. Ivan, for example.


Ivan Burmistrov has no particularly good relationship with the soldiers that are stationed all over the village in the shot in the farmers ‘ cottages. “The times fought for the Russians,” say the full of contempt about him. How you come to this idea, is not clear. Maybe it’s because he has for the Ukrainian policy, no kind words at the ready. “Shit, I don’t know,” he says. This is his comment on the elections.

Ivan is big and strong and used to work in a chemical factory in Donetsk. The house he built with his father. “It has thirty-eight thousand stones,” he says. “I know, because I had every single one of them in the Hand.” He looks to leave it, just because the war turned his home village into a giant shooting range. “The soldiers are working here on both sides only their salaries,” he says. After all, the fire wood will not be scarce, mocks it: “Donetsk, it shoots me directly in front of the feet.” He shows a couple of broken trees in his yard.


especially Old jostling in the queues at the border crossing in the Luhansk region. You want to stand out in the Ukraine their pension.

©Joseph Sywenkyj/the star

for A year, his family endured with him. It was quiet, drew his little son, then seven years old, to the soldiers from the battalion on the Right sector to watch with you cartoons. Now son and wife live in the neighboring village Perwomajskij, where the situation is bleak, but safe.

Ivan also handles a bit of grandma Sonja, who is 80 years old and always hid under the bed as soon as it is shot. She lives with her sick son, three chickens and a half dozen cats in a cabin full of garbage. Your own house is broken. Sometimes she cries because she is so lonely. “I live here, as in solitary,” she says.


The other neighbors can’t visit because they live so far away. Because of the sudden shootings, they hardly dare venture outside the door. A relief organization that brings drinking water, the Red cross, clothes and food. Twice a month she drives a Bus of the Red cross in the next larger place. Particularly well you feel there, too. “I feel like I’m a Wild out of the forest,” says a woman who does not want to say her name. She would like to invite Angela Merkel to Piski. “Somebody must stop this war!”, she calls. “This Madness!”

Many of the former residents of Piski envy Ivan: Because he made it to his house and staple it. The other grabbed the bags and looked at their farms and then not again. Today you may only with special permission. Dozens of residents of Piski could even with slips of paper in Hand taking pictures. “We want to go home”, it says. Probably because you have a fresh start in ruins, still seems easier than a fresh start in the Nothing.


An old woman with Gehbeschwerden in a makeshift sled across the border

©Joseph Sywenkyj/the star

push It is not so, that the war would have devastated the entire country. However, life is everywhere on the border is completely out of joint. Many of the coal are flooded bays, most of the factories are at a standstill. Who lived in the suburbs of Donetsk or Luhansk, commuted in the city and is now unemployed. Many pensioners do not support their adult children, and Vice versa.

In the Luhansk Region, mocks even before the war as a “rust belt”, the decline in industrial exports in just six percent of the prewar level. The new Symbol for the decline of heavy industry in the Donbass, were the scrap-Laden truck, is it in the “Ukraine-analyses” at the University of Bremen: because the systems into individual parts and sold for scrap will be dismantled. Plans for an economic reorientation of the Luhansk Region there is not.

smuggling is flourishing,

How broken life is, in Werchnetorezke visit, a place to the North of Donetsk. It belongs almost entirely to the Ukraine – just two streets are part of the separatist region. The authorities on both sides established a special border crossing just for the residents, which are reported in this village.

The took advantage is the First business people. Since food in the Ukraine are cheaper than in the separatist-controlled areas, where, along with Russian rubles is paid for, registered, soon, 40 food wholesalers its branches in three Ukrainian roads. Several trucks dumped each day food across the border. Of the flourishing smuggling which the border guards profited, apparently, on both sides. In 2017, officials from Kiev, moved then to have the Chaos set.


Anja, 4, listens to the daily shots. “Men to expel the evil giant,” she says.

©Joseph Sywenkyj/the star

For the inhabitants is the limit, in spite of the Transition of a disaster. To hasten on foot or Bicycle, people between the checkpoint and the three kilometers of no man’s land, back and forth, the teachers, the lives of the separatists ‘ territory, in the Ukraine and Vice versa. Oleg, a former mechanic, who lives across the border, but his bedridden mother in the Ukraine maintains. Christmas family Petscher moved their paralyzed daughter in the carriage to the grandmother in the steppe road in the separatists territory.

in the Evening it is pitch-dark in the village Because the Front runs through the place, impose most of the residents still in the window. “We are always afraid,” says a woman, which happens the Transition day with the bike. Your neighbor had to throw in December in the snow, because she was caught in a firefight.

The people in the destroyed villages in the East of Ukraine in need of food, clothing, and medicine. We will forward your help. Please donate to: IBAN DE90 2007 0000 0469 9500 01 – BIC DEUTDEHH – keyword “Eastern Ukraine”;

From the outside, it seems to cut the border the area is also ideological. As all the opponents of the Ukraine lived in areas in the Separatists, their supporters in the Ukraine. The reality is both simpler and more complex at the same time: Everyone lives, where Survival appears to be the easiest.

queues at check-points

A special issue of the border crossings are everywhere. In the Luhansker area, there is only one. 12,000 people squeezing on a daily basis in the long queues, most of them pensioners. Since Russia pays in the separatist republics, and no pensions, but only a small compensation of about 30€, register the most in the Ukraine, in order to obtain their pensions. To do this, you need to cross, however, every two months personally the limit, a painful, humiliating.


Anatoly Malenik washes in front of his dacha in the village Luhanska. Against the cold, he restrained the summer house with reed.

©Joseph Sywenkyj/the star

most of The start at night and not take the government courses, nevertheless, in a day. Again and again people fall in the cold in fainting. Ten have died since the beginning of winter in the queues at the control points.

This chaotic pension scheme, has sparked a new hatred. The people on the Ukrainian side to keep the visitors from the separatist-controlled areas for the privileged: because the cash twice. They strive, therefore, to benefit from the advancing Old maximum. The whole place village Luhanska, it seems, now lives. The residents of the pensioners for money in their homes to stay, they drive around in the town or offer to cart you to the converted carriage through the border crossing.

The retired Anatoly Malenik, 69, has decided to dispense with the humiliating procedure. He moved to his summer house in the suburb, belongs to the Ukraine. His wife lives meanwhile, in the case of the separatists in the apartment in Lugansk. “So we’ll watch both,” he says.


In the village of Krimske distribute helper bread. The place is hard-to-reach – on the main road is fought.

©Joseph Sywenkyj/the star

it is Particularly convenient to the house, however, is not. To insulate it against the cold, he stuffed plane of the outer reeds, under a plastic. A bed has just the place. Anatoly has it even been built. In the evening, it comes like in a U-boat, so narrow it is. He steps outside, he feels like in the infinity of the cosmos. In the dacha settlement, there is hardly any light.


Tags, he’s limping around the garden, draws water from the well or in the summer kitchen, his food, boots and down jacket. Earlier, he once worked as an engineer in metallurgy. On top of the stove in an old Textbook that he actually wanted to break up. Then did it to him but sorry. “In my worst nightmares I could not imagine life in my old age,” he says. He is not referring to just the poverty. “I’ve forgotten what means Would the word.”


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