Part III, looking into various messages from people in eastern Ukraine. Again, I’ve gone through the most interesting parts, posted over at http://www.rferl.org , making some personal comments and remarks. I firmly believe that real-world events such as these present us with invaluable lessons.
Escaping From Donetsk
Olga Astakhov, Anthropologist, Donetsk
I am not going to discuss all the twists and turns of applying for a
permit (to cross the boundary between the self-proclaimed Donetsk
People's Republic (DNR) and the rest of Ukraine) because there is a mass
of cases like these already.
People, who submitted documents at the end of January, still have pending applications.
Not too long ago, my friend's cousin, living in Zaporizhia, ended up in
the hospital. Of course it is hard to leave Donetsk without a permit,
that's why she first travelled to Russia and from there went to
Zaporizhia in Ukraine.
FerFAL comment: This reminds me, get
your passport NOW. Even if you don’t plan on traveling, its essential
preparedness documentation. For those that are thinking right now “oh,
Ferfal, but I don’t PLAN on going anywhere when SHTF…” to those that are
thinking that, just stop it right now. The nature of serious disasters
dictate that things don’t go according to your own personal plans and
preferences, improvising is what its all about, trying to be ready for
the unexpected. Those things “you never thought you’d do”, those are the
ones that catch people completely unprepared. More on “I never thought”
later. If you can get a second passport, don’t give such a powerful
tool up and get one pronto!
Is this logical?
system is permanently in effect on territories of the ATO
(Antiterrorist Operation, the Ukrainian military's term for combat
operations with separatist forces) zone. Thus, it is impossible to go
through the Volnovakha checkpoint without a permit, unless you use dirt
roads. These are illegally used to transport credulous passengers for
large amounts of money.
FerFAL comment: So many lessons
there. Having a vehicle capable of moderate off-roading, having a BOB,
having a kit in your vehicle. So often overlooked, having the physical
capability of actually walking those distances if needed to cover them
The same applies to crossing the border between Artemivsk and Horlivka.
you take the risk of going through the Kurakhov checkpoint, you may get
lucky. Some get let through without a problem, nothing is asked of
them. It's enough to show a Ukrainian passport.
There are many
announcements about the permits in Donetsk: permit registration costs
300-800 hryvnya. Is this a little or a lot for a retired woman, who
wants to travel and withdraw her 1,000 hryvnya pension?
FerFAL comment: Cash is king, hoe often have I repeated that commenting in these Ukraine letters alone?
This is how people end up abandoned.
For those who wish to register for a permit in cities and regions under
the control of the Ukrainian government, offices were opened to issue
the necessary documents. This partially relieved the main coordination
Regarding carriers, there are two sides to this coin. On
one side, the permit system significantly complicated and lowered
passenger traffic, and thus this affected the income of businesses.
Also many carriers, who work in the controlled and occupied areas of
Ukraine, are forced to pay double taxes in order to continue running
their business. The taxes are paid to the so-called DNR and Ukraine,
which is why resourceful carriers have adapted to the situation.
comment: “But sir, its TEOTWAWKI, I’m not supposed to pay for fees and
government VAT any more because its WROL.” Its cute sometimes to see how
naïve some preppers can be. Its cute but also dangerous folks. WROL is
code word for no government, and sadly the government will still be
there to make life miserable of. Rule of law doesn’t go away when SHTF,
its still there to scew you and never to help you.
we sell a ticket, we check the passenger's permit. It's safer this way.
No immigration certificates or Donetsk residency are accepted," says one
of the drivers who works in the ATO zone. The age group of passengers
has also changed. Before it was mostly youth and pensioners, but now the
number of pensioners has decreased and the number of young men has
declined even further.
Before they depart, many carriers enquire
about the passengers' permits and sell them tickets afterwards – the
tickets are sold at different rates. Those who don't have the required
permit will have to pay an extra 20-30 percent on top of the regular
price. This generally applies to the route between Donetsk and Kyiv.
tariffs are the other factor that affects passengers' expenses. The
chaotic exchange rate of the U.S. dollar has had an impact on fuel
prices in Donetsk – petrol and gas cost 5-9 hryvnya more than in
This is why the number of trips has been cut down, and
passengers spend hours waiting in line to travel out of Donetsk. The
price hasn't changed for now, but shuttles in Donetsk and Makiivka no
longer accept Ukrainian coins. In front-line cities they only accept
amounts up to 1 hryvnya.
In this situation, only one thing is
positive – the transportation infrastructure is still trying to survive
through the horrible wartime conditions. Some carriers are even helping
get people out of dangerous areas for free.
What's In A Name?
A Ukrainian Teacher From Donetsk
'Donbasivtsi' (citizens of Donbas) – this is what some of my students now call themselves.
Adults have come up with other names: Novorossian, or New Russians.
I can't explain why they don't like the more generally accepted name
'Donetchan' (resident of Donetsk), although sometimes they use this
word. Maybe, the revolutionary wave that has driven them since last
year, demands the creation of everything from scratch, even something so
The creation of words is generally positive; it mirrors changes in the life of a nation and for that matter, in its spirit.
What can be said about people, referring to themselves with a name
originating from a geopolitical region, no bigger than the territory
that they occupy?
Psychologists will probably find the teenage
complex regarding the extent and signs of delusions of grandeur.
Philosophers may point to the characteristics of lazy-spirited people's
desire to exaggerate their accomplishments in order to affirm their
The newly created 'Donbasivtsi,' the new citizens of
Donetsk, remind me of people who put on colorful contact lenses and will
insist that their eyes were always bright emerald.
Dear Donbasivtsi, you can try to convince others of this, and they will probably believe you.
Suck-ups will sing the praises of your "naturally green" eyes; you can
even convince yourselves of this. However, you will not be able to
change your own nature. I know that your eyes are gray, like your soul.
You are gray-eyed and gray-spirited; you betrayed your ancestors and
your entire essence of being by tolerating evil.
Now you express
many complaints about Ukraine that should instead be addressed to
various jurisdictions; but the government is made of people, meaning
specific problems need to be resolved with specific people. Why blame
your homeland and distance oneself from her?
If history had a sense
of humor, she would give you time to develop. In 100 years, you could
even become a nation – a nation of traitors. There is but one answer to
the question: "Who are Donbasivtsi?" They are former Ukrainians, who
denied their people; they are former Russians, who don't know their own
customs; they are Tatars, Armenians, and Greeks who forgot who they are.
But history is a fair but tough judge, who won't give such people a chance.
You claim that in general you are doing okay.
Look around, what you refer to as the laws of your new "republic" are
just a pathetic lookalike of the regulations of another state. Your
freedom with a weapon in your hands prohibits me from referring to my
Homeland (and yours) by name and from communicating with her, not
letting Ukrainian media in, and basically doing everything possible so
that residents don't desert the supervised basements.
comment: Censorship, media control, sounds familiar. reminds me of the
“Secretary of Strategic Coordination of National Ideology””, created by
Cristina Kirchner in Argentina. Since when do we need the government to
explain the population how they are supposed to think? Guess we’re now
calling that freedom.
Your "prosperity" looks out from underneath
empty supermarket shelves, boarded-up windows, closed stores, and
half-empty markets. Your salaries resemble sop, just to keep you quiet.
And you -- having surrendered many civil rights, all benefits,
allowances, social protections, the opportunity to plan your futures --
are silent. Even you cannot look at the destroyed medical industry --
that is hanging on by a thread thanks to the heroism of everyday doctors
and nurses -- or at the disorder in education, closed business or
unemployment, through rose-colored glasses. Was this the life you
You say that your purpose right now is survival. What
sort of people do you plan to become in order to survive? What sort of
people will your children become?
Those who were Ukrainian yesterday
(If you've forgotten, look at their birth certificates, and at the same
time look at your own passports that read 'Ukrainian citizen' in two
languages!) and call themselves 'Donbasivtsi' today because they hear
that being Ukrainian is unworthy, either out of your mouths or out of
your illegitimate silence?
You say that it hurts you to hear the
words 'Ukraine' and 'Ukrainians', because your husbands are dying in a
war with Ukraine. But you started it! Did you not realize that the gun
that you were holding in your hands could kill?
It's not Ukraine that hurts you; it's your drowsy consciousness attempting to awaken your soul. Wake up!
People queue for free food distributed by pro-Russian rebels near the town of Debaltseve last month.
Debaltseve After The Fall
Nadezdhia, Sociologist, Horlivka
story is of an acquaintance, who surprisingly left the city recently
and managed to get herself to Ukrainian [controlled] territory. The
horror came later, when the separatists took over Debaltseve and the
flags of the executive committee changed.
I was remaining in Debaltseve until the end, even during the evacuation. It was scary to leave.
The city died. It was razed to the ground, yet I was still trying to
find a way to survive in conditions unfit for life. My countrymen are
trying to restore their homes after the shelling and they are trying to
recover property that remains in the buildings. But that's impossible.
Everything has been looted and destroyed.
People stand in long lines to get humanitarian aid and prepare food
under the open sky. Practically all the buildings in the center have
been seized by Debaltseve militants, destroyed or damaged. To assess the
humanitarian situation, it is enough to look at the gray-with-hunger
faces of its residents. There is also nowhere to live. People live in
basements, get sick, and die.
There is no medicine. According to my
calculations, more than 80 percent of the buildings in Debaltseve were
destroyed during the war. The kindergartens and other institutions are
closed. They have been promising to reopen the central city hospital
since February 25.
There is another hospital by the train station, completely destroyed.
FerFAL Comments: Always the basics folks, dont forget to cover medicine, water, food and shelter. These you will always need!
The city is full of mines; it's dangerous to walk anywhere. There is no
electricity. Every day they bring in bread and hot tea and distribute
it for free. Under Ukrainian control, we even got canned food, grains
and potatoes. For now, we are still getting bread and tea. However they
said that something was delivered by the International Red Cross.
countrymen are living in unsanitary conditions; they are hungry and
cold. In Debaltseve the problems don't end with electricity. There is no
gas or water. Few people have stayed. Usually no more than 200 city
residents wait in lines to receive humanitarian aid. All these people
The last weeks before the departure of the Ukrainian
army, the attacks did not abate – a number of buildings came under fire.
Since the end of January, Debaltseve has been without heating. Since
the beginning of February, it has been without light and water.
Around 6,000 or 8,000 people remained in the city. This is around 30
percent of the original population. They mainly sit in their basements
because it is cold in their apartments. They prepare food near their
driveways on a fire, outside. In addition to this, most of them don't
have any money at all, which is why they can't leave the city.
tell you about the basement, that I had to live in. It's dark inside and
damp. There is a table with a candle in the middle of the space. Women
sit at the table feeding their children.
Before the departure of the
Ukrainian Army, the residents of Debaltseve left the city in masses.
They fled to Kharkiv in particular. Women with children and the elderly
mainly went there, some left with their entire families, men included.
There is no rush to deliver groceries to the territories occupied by
the Donetsk People's Republic. Other cities and villages are collecting
food for Debaltseve. Other than food, medicine is also vital. The
people, who weren't able to leave, now have to wait in long lines just
to get water. Very often they collect water directly from puddles on the
street. Fortunately the snow has melted. There is risk of intestinal
Everyone who gets the opportunity will probably attempt to leave the city at the soonest possible moment; just like us.
Oleksandra Samoylova, Student, Luhansk
State universities in the occupied territories of the Luhansk and
Donetsk regions have come under separatist control. For students, that
means changes in everything from class size to curriculum.
the Luhansk People's Republic (LNR), the first lesson on Mondays
usually begins with the question, "How are you?" The teachers aren't
asking about course work or whether we're prepared for class; they're
asking about our domestic life. Is everything OK with our homes and
families? Did everything go well on our trips back home?
so few students going to lectures these days that teachers have time to
pay attention to each individual student. It turns out they're not only
capable of reading out loud from a book; they can actually communicate
and express human emotions. Only now have I begun to see the human side
of my teachers.
The small groups are very interesting. Every student
gets maximum attention; everything is explained to them, and all their
questions are answered.
At the same time, while communicating with
their students, lecturers often slip up and inadvertently talk about
politics. Topics can include: dissatisfaction with the Education
Ministry, problems with salaries, and working overtime because rising
debt has forced them to cut back personnel.
Compared to previous
years, studying has gotten easier for me. Now we can spend more time on
interesting core subjects, and less on general topics like religious
studies. A lot of students elsewhere probably lose interest in their
studies because of a lack of financial incentive or scholarships. That
seems sort of funny to us now.
Student Life Outside the Classroom
the start of winter, the university had organized a lot of concerts and
events and assigned us to volunteer duties. They did this to create the
illusion of a flurry of activity.
The various tasks associated with
bringing an Orthodox element to higher education were especially
absurd. Talks about the friendship between science and religion were
full of cliches. The female heads of various student committees, all
blonde atheists tired of the long, boring conversations we were
subjected to, lied depressingly about "broad support for useful student
But students these days embrace the Orthodox Church
about as much as wolves do vegetarianism. At the bus stop near our
"temple of science" it's not uncommon to hear conversations like this:
-- How did you celebrate Easter?
-- With three beers!
-- Oh, and I drank wine.
Students are used as "extras" at rallies. This has always been true.
But while once there was only a limited range of gatherings, now they
call us out for any number of reasons. Once I saw a coordinator of a
so-called "initiative group" get into an argument with his teacher. The
point is that students are being dragged away from their classes to
attend events that even their lecturers haven't been told about.
Incidentally, all the different departments have been forced into new
formations due to the low number of teachers. The concepts behind these
new "associations" are pretty unique. Translators, for example, are now
part of the Philosophy Faculty.
department there's just one teacher left from the old staff. She's the
one person with whom I feel free to openly discuss my views. True, I can
see with a kind of horror that if she hadn't persuaded me to enroll,
I'd now be considered "on the continent," as they say -- pro-Kyiv, in
Many other teachers flow in and out of the university
like water. You don't have time to get your grades or finish a project
for one before you have to get used to the personality and questions of
The first reason for that is the salary. They get paid only
twice in six months. Other reasons include the incredible amount of
paperwork (the transition to Russian standards, translating
documentation), problems with co-workers, or dim prospects for certain
subjects -- particularly for those specializing in Ukrainian history or
Ukrainian language and literature.
The Price Of A Russian Diploma
every day students ask their teachers for guarantees that they'll
receive Russian diplomas. No one is talking about "local" diplomas from
the Luhansk People's Republic.
But we worry that's what they're
going to give us, although they're of no use to anyone. Even the rare
ardent fans of the "blue, blue, and red" -- as the separatist flag is
known -- say they're "out of here" if there aren't going to be any
They've apparently already received Russian
diplomas in some universities around here. I haven't seen photographic
proof. There are different ways of getting them -- you can defend your
degree there in Russia, or from here by Skype. Some people get sent
elsewhere to take their exams.
The teachers say that everyone will
get their degrees. But how much value will these diplomas have, if....
students are studying unsystematically: gunfire and explosions can
prevent them from going to class. A majority of those enrolled this year
can't call themselves university students without embarrassment. Many
of the upperclassmen have come up with their own individual schedule for
finishing their course work and are located in different countries.
Studies are the last thing they're thinking about.
complicated question: for what accomplishments, and according to what
criteria, is our generation of students going to receive its diplomas?
I hope that the labor market will dump us in the service-industry niche
of Slavic fast food -- or whatever they're planning to build instead of
McDonald's -- and that no catastrophes will ensue.
Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre is the author of “The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse” and “Bugging Out and Relocating: When Staying is not an Option”.