In DONi PRESS, December 2, 2015
Translated from French by Tom Winter
It's December 1. We drive at high speed towards the Donetsk front. We have set out on a long circuit on the immediate rear of the Spartak front line, skirting along the airport towards the south. In this devastated area hundreds of families are still living.
Reduced to sheltering in basements, without electricity, water, or gas, they face the Ukrainians simply by their courage and their determination not to let up. If many are gone, there are those who are still refusing. They are there, families with children, they stubbornly continue to live in the hell of the front zone. No soldier resides in their midst, the fighters in the trenches are hundreds of meters away, sometimes two or three kilometers at most. Yet these people are always taken for targets by the Ukrainian army and they still die ... and resist.
The bridge to the airport is still adorned with a monument welcoming the motorists who once used it. On the structure you can still read DONETSK, despite the damage from mortars, shrapnel and bullets. One soon reaches the first houses. At first impression everything seems calm and still. The wintry season is all but here, but its silence was misleading. We are promptly welcomed by bursts as the Ukrainians, so to speak, give us a welcome.
The driver floors it. We go by, seeing a panorama around us of debris of all sorts; our driver has to swerve around the spent lengths of rocket, shells, a broken up metal railing or sometimes a block of masonry that has spurted there, heaven knows how.
All the trees around are gashed and splintered, the buildings are gutted, but the individual houses show a contrast: some by chance of fate have not been hit, others are ripped and have collapsed. Desolation reigns everywhere. We continue on foot, and just in sight of the airport, the streets are not so deserted, and people come out of the ruins. They often invite us to come on in, and see how they live.
Among them, Svetlana and Volodia. Volodia's folks built the house in the '50s. It had been a solid house but is now mostly burned out, and they live in a glacial basement. A bed is still there on the first floor. They have a daughter, 13 or 14, and she still goes to school. Their living conditions are terrible; they get humanitarian help each month from Russian convoys and once in three months, help from the Red Cross. Svetlana shows us the famous 500-gram two-rouble bread furnished by the authorities. Despite the shell holes and the destruction, they find the spirit to welcome us with a smile.
I leave four squares of chocolate, in the name of Xavier Moreau, who had left us some food at our premises.
Further on there's another woman, she hailed us from far off, wondering what we're doing here, then leads us into her half bombed out house: "look at the gifts they send us on the nose! "The woman said ironically, handing us a curious metal tube that my guide identifies as part of a hurricane system, namely a rocket propelling a bunch of explosives or grenades pulverizing everything in sight. In her odds and ends, she gets out another for us, an imposing and freshly burst 122mm shell "and you call it a truce?"
The woman then said that her house is in ruins, than those of his children were also destroyed and must only think of repairs. "They even bombed the church which is just behind, it took several direct hits, and no doubt you have seen the school is closed too, they bombed it anyway, they're shooting at us every night, there's all kinds of stuff flying all over our heads. "