Laughter has not been heard in Donetsk for a long time. Loud, bubbly, happy laughter. As it was before the summer of 2014, when not only children, but also adults laughed. Nobody no longer laughs not because there are no people on the city streets, but because everyone is just tired of the unknown and fear. Strength and patience are wearing out. The desire to rejoice has disappeared due to endless stress and anxiety. Together with it, the feeling of empathy and sympathy has vanished. Pain and anger can be often seen in the eyes of passers-by.
Since the spring of 2022, many Donetsk women have lost their sons and husbands, and the children lost their fathers, who were mobilized and thrown to the front line like cannon fodder. At first, I wanted to wail from all the black mourning head scarves and tear-stained eyes I noticed. Then I realized that I imperceptibly stopped counting them in a city bus or in line at the checkout. It was as if I stopped noticing human sorrow at all, but that was only internal self-defense. After all, every normal person understands that grief has not actually lessened. Because every day, more and more people from Donetsk were dying, and not only in the war. This has become a common occurrence for others, who have not yet been touched by the grief.
In the spring, for the first time, I heard tinge of reproach from a woman whose son was mobilized. She shouted to her neighbor: "Tell me why your son wasn’t mobilized? Did you bribe someone? While I can’t sleep at night...". But not everyone screamed like that. Many hid their pain inside. Up to a certain point.
Time passed, but instead of the paradise, promised by the advocates of the "russian world", only a black hole loomed ahead, increasing in size with every passing month. And it didn’t get any easier after the "DNR" was solemnly declared a part of russia. On the contrary, the Donetsk residents see how their beloved city is being cynically destroyed. They realize that all the attributes of the "people's republic" turned out to be fiction and deceit, and people are doomed to poverty by unreasonably high prices for food, utilities and other services. Therefore, it is quite understandable why life has ceased to be cheerful not only for those who have experienced the pain of loss.
I think it’s not a secret for anyone that there are still "successful people" in Donetsk. Teachers, artists, writers, doctors, entrepreneurs and even fashion designers. Due to their political convictions, they did not leave the city in 2014, retained their former status, and some even made a career. All these years, each of them led a rather active lifestyle and passionately waited for changes. For a long time, their social networks’ posts were filled with optimism and faith in a bright future, which, of course, was inextricably linked with russia. However, everything has its limit. Finally, they also began to realize that the former Donetsk does not exist. It died. If not with the advent of the "russian world", then after the longed-for "joining" to the russian federation. Even they realized that the city of a million roses turned into a russian military base, and they suddenly became second-class citizens.
Since 2014, there have been many "outsiders" in Donetsk and it can be seen with the naked eye. They consider themselves to be the new Donetsk locals, and sometimes even the masters of the region. Some occupy high positions in the "republic", some restore the city after regular shelling or work in communal services, others came to "liberate". All of them are very different from the native Donbas residents. The "outsiders" differ not only in their appearance and peculiar dialect. They swear and litter a lot. They are boorish in public places and treat others with deliberate disdain. Even if they want to show kindness and respect for the elderly, it comes out as an insult. For example, a woman in her eighties was standing at the supermarket checkout. She was well dressed and did not give the impression of being in need. However, the military man standing behind her decided to show his "humanity". "Hey, how much do you need to pay? It’s on me!", - he said categorically. Of course, the old lady refused and advised him to help someone else. She spoke softly and politely, but her gaze was angry. "Well, suit yourself. I wanted to make your life easier", - the "liberator" sounded offended. He did not realize that the people of Donetsk will be able to breathe a sigh of relief only when all the slant-eyed and bearded "defenders" get out of the Donbas.
The fact that a lot of "outsiders" with long-term residence aspirations came to Donetsk is also evidenced by the real estate market, which has recently suddenly revived. According to realtors, demand exceeds supply. This is primarily due to the fact that the owners of real estate, who left for Ukraine at the beginning of the conflict, are not ready to waste 3 days for the commute to Donetsk to conclude a deal. Ukrainian powers of attorney are not valid here. Therefore, only the proposals of those who live on the territory of the "republic" remained. Naturally, prices for apartments skyrocketed. Of course, this also angers the Donetsk locals. Because they have been promised "decent" salary for almost nine years, and the russians who came "to help" (primarily the military), have it per se by the fact of being born on native russian soil. And the conclusion is disappointing again: people with machine guns are replacing doctors, teachers, entrepreneurs and engineers, who left Donetsk.
The Donetsk residents are also angry that the new "authorities" have no limits to hypocrisy and lies. Until recently, they "quietly envied" their relatives and acquaintances from Mariupol, who were given apartments in new buildings instead of the destroyed housing. For free, like in the Soviet Union. But then it turned out that the housing was not completely free. Those apartments were not free at all. They allowed those people to live there for some time, so that the "authorities" had something to show on TV as an example of caring for the people. However, now it turned out that the housing needs to be bought out. The people who moved in were suddenly informed that these apartments need to be mortgaged at 2% per annum. Those who do not have money for a down payment, must vacate the premises. The prices are not at all conditional for such conditional housing without a proper foundation. For example, a two-room apartment costs around 3 million rubles, which is approximately 45 thousand dollars. It is quite possible to find an apartment in Kyiv for the same price. And people understand that they were fooled once again.
Frowning grim people. Foreigners, who came to the USSR, often described Soviet people in that way. But the ideologists of the "russian world" and their adherents do not want to remember why the Soviet people had a dull gaze. Why 40 year old women looked much older, and men drank liters of vodka. After all, it is much more pleasant to look at actors from films of that era, depicting jubilation and delight from making train tracks and felling trees. They still use this trick today. The life of the "republic" on TV differs drastically from the reality. On TV, apartments are given out for free, salaries and pensions are increased with a fabulous progression. There, children cheerfully chant something similar to "thanks to Comrade Stalin for our happy childhood!". But one has only to leave the house and the picture changes dramatically. Dullness, wretchedness, oppressive silence, periodically broken by the sounds of guns. Gloomy people walk the streets with a mask of grief and discontent. Smiles are extremely rare. Everyone feels this extreme tension, caused either by fear, fatigue or anger.
Liusia Molchanova, Donetsk, for OstroV