The story will be a bit scattered. In August, my child's teacher called to ask if I would take part in the September referendum. It looked like she was testing the waters by calling all the parents. She even broke her own rule not to call anyone from her personal phone, because the past three years have shown that even a teacher's phone number can be a speculation and a sign of special treatment.
Though, perhaps, it is necessary to begin with another thing. For example, from the fact that we received 10 000 russian rubles (nicknamed "putin’s") as a monetary aid for "refugees". Everyone chose their own route: going on their own, paying a carrier, or with a partial payment. It turned out to be a new challenge for many. And a new source of income for others – there are carriers targeting old people, charging them 2 200 rubles and additional 50 rubles for filling out applications instead of them.
Although, it is probably not the right beginning as well. Ukraine has never been as far away as it is now. Even during the shelling in 2014, there was no such abyss and such horror as it is now. Hryvnia is not in use. Its remains are accepted at the rate of 1 ruble to 1.50 hryvnia only in stores. It cannot be exchanged or sold in exchange offices. You cannot buy it and you cannot use it. Money has suddenly become a dead capital, which is depreciating in value every day. Stores will not give you change in hryvnias if you do not have the exact amount.
Vodafone mobile operator has been blocked since February. This also became a problem, because bank cards were tied to the Ukrainian phone numbers. Using your money on Ukrainian accounts has become incredibly complicated: you need to go to the border where Vodafone works and you also need a local operator for the Internet connection in order to log in to the mobile banking app and check the status of your account.
For many, all these procedures turned out to be incredibly difficult. Once again, those who are ready to help for the fee came to the rescue: to transfer money, withdraw it, sort it out. The 2014-2015 years suddenly returned, when there were a lot of those who were ready to make money on someone else’s bewilderment.
I am talking about something else yet again. Everyone, who used Vodafone, became unavailable. Viber was declared an enemy app and all those, with whom you communicated only via Viber, disappeared at once as well. Same happened to Facebook and Instagram. Your social circle suddenly narrowed down to local mobile operator subscribers, who also managed to swap their Ukrainian number to a russian one, changing the first three digits of the number.
You probably do not understand what I am talking about, but I myself do not understand what I mean. What is happening? Every school day of my child will begin with the anthem of russia. New textbooks, new classes, lack of teachers.
Migration process: people left and then returned from the liberated territories. New status. "My husband should not be mobilized yet, as we are from the liberated territories". Fear, total fear of mobilization. Stories about vacations and tears, the quietest and most terrible tears while standing in the queue - a brother, husband, son died... And yet again, chatter about the sea, life, sounds of knocking hammers in the neighborhood. That is how it happens. Someone is dying, and someone is building a new house nearby, in plain sight. Because life and death have always gone hand in hand.
"Do not worry, Ukraine will free you all soon", - my friend reassures everyone. He traveled half of Europe to return from Kyiv to Luhansk. Such tours via Georgia, Poland and Lithuania cost 450 euros per person. There were three of them, and they spent the cost of the car to return home from Kyiv. The last grand tour in their life. There are many people who are ready to pay to return to a place where there is housing and work, familiar lifestyle, but no future.
My friends say that Luhansk will soon become the second Grozny - a wonderful city that everyone will envy. I hear notes of envy and disapproval in their voice. Our city will be built at the expense of their russian taxes. We have become an eternal headache for them, an eternal beggar in the neighborhood and that bottomless pit that will never be filled.
They are tired of stories about us - about injuries, hunger, old people. They want to live as they have before, and we have become their shadow, their nightmare. “We even need to give new blankets as humanitarian aid for you”, - they complain.
Upcoming referendum is in the air. It is as if all life should happen before it. One needs to finish something before it, or to wait for it to see how to live on. For example, do not sell real estate. Or do not rush to make any decisions. Like, we will see what will be happening next. Do you understand what I mean? I don't either. Nowadays it is incomprehensible like never before.
But at the same time, there is some general tendency to try getting something useful until the hour X happened: to use free vouchers for children camp vacations, to look for an opportunity to receive humanitarian aid, to go somewhere, to get some perks due to one’s orphan status. No, I don't understand what I mean. But I live in it, and I see it every day.
My friend’s son is eight years old, and he has clothes for the next 12 years precisely at the expense of humanitarian aid. Although this story is no longer about us, but about Ukraine, where my friend grilled barbecue every day, because she got to the distribution of humanitarian aid successfully. And first of all, she helped her family, which her mother willingly talks about here.
Another interesting thing is that none of my acquaintances who left does not want to return here, no matter how hard it is for them now. They are ready to rent housing and live in other people's apartments and cities, but not here. Their apartments are still here, but they will never return. They have become strangers here. We became strangers and our new world became foreign. Sometimes they ask for a favor or an errand to do for them, but it happens less and less. As it turned out, in this new life you can live without everything, even without your past.
Every day we see cripples. There are many of them and almost always they look confused. I have not seen a single guy with no limbs who is cheery in his new status. It is not easy to just look at them and not think about it. Even without knowing whether he went to the war himself or was mobilized, you understand that thousands fall into these huge millstones and die by thousands as well. You also understand that you have become like a stranger in your own hometown, trampled under the armor and wheels of other people's cars without numbers. You pull over to the side of the road to let them pass. A local stranger in the very same home and foreign city.
Olha Kucher, specially for OstroV