Refugees from the Lugansk region of Ukraine came to Syktyvkar the day before yesterday. Mainly they are the miners and their families. This week they will go to Vorkuta, where will try to find a job in the mines of "Vorkutaugol". Correspondent of «7x7» met with them and asked to tell about the last days of life in Lugansk, staying in temporary accommodation in Crimea, the road to the North and expectations of life in Vorkuta.
“We need a women’s jacket, size 38, winter boots, men's jacket, size 50 and 52. Warm gloves, large bags, three pieces — a big family, apparently...
Photo: Maxim Polyakov
A doorkeeper of the facility "Young Tourist" in Lesozavod Nina Ivanovna switches off from a phone call and invites me to sit down on the sofa. 14:00 on the clock. It is quiet in a small one-story building. Nina Ivanovna says that refugees have kind of a rest-hour — tired of the trip — and goes on to list the things that they need.
“In short, we need warm clothes in all sizes. They need to prepare for winter. And then there's a three-month baby, so we need hygiene products: wipes, diapers. One man brought one thousand rubles, now it is necessary to buy diapers, but I won’t go. I can’t give up the watch,” Nina Ivanovna finishes talking on the phone and tells about the "Young tourist".
Once this building was occupied by doctors, but then it was given to "athletes". Football and basketball players, weightlifters, skiers live here during national competitions.
“Normal conditions. Almost european. They [the refugees] came yesterday, washed everything. You can see yourself,” Nina shows me the children’s room. “This is where the children play, they feel good here.”
* * *
At that moment a man with a big bag came to the corridor. He presented himself as an employee of Ministry of Emergency Situations and said that he had brought things for refugees' that his wife collected at home. Nina offered to put "humanitarian aid" in a separate room. People heard the sound in the hall went out of their rooms and took things.
Shoes are in a separate package. Women take out winter boots and try them on. They bring men's shoes to another room.
“Without shoes again?” asked one of the women the young man.
“Look what a wide pad,” he says with recognizable Ukrainian accent.
They take a fur coat and hat out of the next package. One of the girls estimates it by eye and says that the coat is too large for her. But others ask her to try. The coat is a little bigger than the required size.
But the hat found a new owner.
One of the men is offered to put a cap of fur. He refuses, saying that it’s women's.
“It’s not women’s. Are you kidding me or what?”
Man gives up and agrees to try on a hat.
“You are going to live in Vorkuta. You need to be well dressed there,” Nina says.
Sergei, one of the arrived the day before yesterday, offers to go outside to smoke and talk. When I turn on the recorder, he asks if he can tell the truth. I ask him to tell "nothing but the truth".
He lived all his life in Lugansk, considers himself a hippie, so he didn’t serve in the army. "Fighting is bad, to kill people is bad," he summarizes briefly.
When they started firing outskirts of Lugansk, he and his friends went to Simferopol, where they were placed in a camp near the city. Men slept in tents, women in barracks. They could go beyond the camp only with the application.
“There has been a war footing. To buy preserves in a neighboring village or Simferopol, it was necessary to write a statement: "Please let me go, I bind myself to return in six hours,” Sergei says and adds that they were fed badly. “Students were cooking on the field kitchen, who haven’t learned to cook. Have you ever eaten half-baked barley, burnt? This is fun. Okay, us, adults, and what will you tell children?”
In Crimea, the refugees have written statements about where they want to live. Group from Lugansk asked to go to Kemerovo so that men tried to get a job at the mine. However, they were not allowed to go there. As a result refugees knew about the final destination only in the plane.
“We didn’t know where we were going until sat down the board. They gave us a MES plane, that flew to Domodedovo. There we were gathered in three buses and only there we were told that we were going to Ryazan. They said it was necessary to not to make a commotion,” Sergei says.
Refugees from Lugansk spent 5 to 22 August in Ryazan. Only the day before yesterday they arrived to Syktyvkar. Social Security representatives promised them to buy tickets to Vorkuta this week.
“What do you know about Vorkuta?” I ask Sergei.
“What we have read in the Internet. I have good expectations. Polar night — 11 days, polar day — 46 days. The minimum temperature was recorded in 1978, "minus" 57 degrees. And the fact that there is mainly tundra, but there is no permafrost. A river Vorkuta is a tributary of the Pechora. There is grayling and whitefish. A ring road in Vorkuta is only 60 kilometers. It makes no sense to buy a car because it’s very expensive to drive it from Ukhta,” Sergei answers.
His friends are surprised of such a profound knowledge.
“Read the Internet,” Sergei teaches them.
“But Vorkuta is the north.”
“So what. The temperature is the same in the mine.”
I ask Sergei about the actions of the Ukrainian security forces and the way it is shown on Ukrainian television channels. He responds very hard and emotionally, cuts sentences on certain phrases.
“Ukrainian news shouldn’t be watched at all. It turns out that we shoot ourselves. It turns out that we are all separatists, including infants and the elderly of 90 years. We are all terrorists. And we bombard ourselves. You go out into the yard and think how to throw a grenade through your own window to kill all the relatives. 80% of our battalion "Zarya" was the miners, with whom I worked at a mine. I know these people, as I worked with them. They are not paid, and are given only "tormozok" [products, a small portion of food]. That is where people don’t fight for the money.”
“And for what do they fight?”
“If men with guns come to your house, what are you going to do? Defend! So does our militia. They protect their land. I am not a soldier, I wasn’t in the army. I don’t know how to fight, and I don’t want to. I'm a hippie. I can’t kill people,” Sergei received SMS from his ex-wife.
He tells other refugees that now she, along with three of his children, is in Ryazan. Sergei goes off to call them.
* * *
“Here people say that only those run from Ukraine who has nothing. Only the homeless. Do you mind, I'll show you how we lived there?” Svetlana is from Sverdlovsk, the Lugansk region, invites me to go to her room and turns on the computer.
There are pictures of the past life. A large renovated private house with many household appliances. Svetlana complains that she and other refugees were treated very leniently.
“People didn’t want to work with us in Crimea. They took their places there, and now don’t want to move, to work. They would just put a tick [the woman showed the dining portion of macaroni in the camp]. Crimeans blamed us for the fact that we disrupted their holiday season. When they had a referendum, we supported them, and then that kind of attitude. In Ryazan, as well. There we were told that we could be in the camp up to 20, and then had to go wherever we wanted. Salary was 7-8 thousand rubles there, and the rent — 10 thousand. And where would we go?” Svetlana says resentfully.
Woman tells the story of the last years of her life in Lugansk, praising Yanukovich. She says that he brought the stability: pensions and wages were paid on time.
“We lived worse with Yushchenko. They just didn’t give time to Yanukovich,” says the girl, and then answers the question about the "golden loaves". “Everyone steal. But he stole and gave to people. If he returned to the Donbass, he would probably be supported. He himself is from the Donbas. There was hope that he would be back, and we would support him.”
According to the woman, many residents of Lugansk are bored of Maidan. They didn’t want to join the European Union and turned to Russia.
“And do you want me to tell you, why the war started? Ukraine has never been united... We always celebrated May 9. They [western Ukraine] didn’t accept it. During Yushchenko the pensions of those who fought for the Germans became bigger. We didn’t accept it, didn’t understand. That's why it began. They wanted to cancel the May 9, May 1, March 8. These are our holidays. Who has the right to cancel them? We were never Ukrainians. We were always turned to Russia. I don’t know why we all ended up in Ukraine,” Svetlana says.
Woman praises Putin, calls him a "real" president. And America, according to her, is jealous of the fact that it doesn’t have the same. Her future in the short and medium term relates only to Russia.
“And under what conditions will you agree to return home?”
“We don’t want to go back. Where to? When it all began, we requested to be a part of Ukraine, but independently. We were not given autonomy. And now they [the Ukrainian authorities] will not leave us. And if everything is over, there will be a guerrilla war. It will take years until everything settles down... And where to return? There's nothing. Everything can be revived, but who will support us? It doesn’t make sense to live as a part of the Ukraine.”
* * *
Man enters the room and shows two mushrooms.
“Here is a red boletus, and this is a birch boletus,” a friend of Svetlana looks at the finding.
“Let’s go for mushrooms,” a friend of Svetlana asks the other guy. “We’ll cook the potatoes with mushrooms In the evening.”
Men go into the woods. At this time, the children go out into the hall to play, a quiet hour ended. Their mothers say that even though they are more susceptible, they rubbed through the move easier. And they will get used to the north.
Maxim Polyakov, «7x7»