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The North of Russia conquered children from the Republic of Donetsk: “Let’s leave a coin under the mattress to return”

Date: September 28, 2023 Time: 10:18:33

Children planting Hungarian lilac

Photo: Grigory KUBATIAN


At night, the village of Russkinskaya is quiet. The dogs do not rattle, the Tromyogan River (the river of God translated from the Khanty language) flows inaudibly, the forests and swamps stretching for hundreds of kilometers around remain silent. And mosquitoes, the monument of which is in the local museum, fly and bite quietly. Therefore, when the music is turned on in the children’s camp, it can be heard from afar.

The children gathered in the courtyard in front of the school building. They weave colored threads around each other’s necks. A girl who doesn’t look more than seven years old also approaches me:

Mosquito Monument

Photo: Grigory KUBATIAN

– I do not know who you are. In fact, it’s the first time I’ve seen it. But you are very beautiful,-she ties her short green thread to the long yellow thread that hangs from my neck and hugs me around the waist with such force that I laugh in surprise.

What is happening is like a meeting of a secret religious society. But not. This is the closure of the children’s camp. A tradition rooted in the famous “Artek” and “Eaglet”: each child can approach and hug whoever they want: friends, counselors, a cook or the head of the camp, to thank and say goodbye.

I’ve only been here a few days, so I don’t count on attention, but after 15 minutes I find myself tied up in multicolored threads like a native of tropical islands. The children thank me for the lectures or come like that. They are happy and sad because the shift is over and they have to go home.

Boys give roses to girls.

Photo: Grigory KUBATIAN

There are two hundred children in this shift, most of them from Surgut and the Surgut district of Ugra, but another 50 children came from Makeevka, Donetsk Republic. These are the children of the military, children who find themselves in a difficult life situation, who have lost their homes due to the bombing. In general, those who just need help today. They came to rest. To the swamps of western Siberia.


The Yugra swamps are not Conan Doyle’s gloomy, inhospitable swamps, through which phosphorus-smeared wolfhounds gallop. Here are the species, the landscape. In the morning, a transparent haze rises above them.

The local Russian school functions as a boarding school. From September to late spring, Khanty children study here. For the summer, many children return to their home camps, located so far away that they can only be reached by helicopter. Therefore, a necessary element of infrastructure here is a helipad. To send 44 children home, the Mi-8 passenger makes two flights.

In the summer, the children leave to help their parents (they live in tents, deer graze) and the school is empty. So they decided to use it as a place for the children’s camp “Kar-Tokhi”, which means “Open Place” in Khanty.

The Yugra swamps are not Conan Doyle’s gloomy, inhospitable swamps, through which phosphorus-smeared wolfhounds gallop. Here are the species, the landscape.

Photo: Grigory KUBATIAN


Every city in Donbass and new regions has a Russian head of region. This applies to everything from construction to assisting in some legislative matters. Here in Makeevka (a satellite city of Donetsk with a population of 300 thousand), the head is the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug – Yugra. They provide humanitarian assistance, restore the destroyed infrastructure, take local children to rest.

– We have an injured child, he was attacked. There are children from large families or those whose parents died, says Tatyana, who accompanies the Makeev group. There are four companions, each of them has a pedagogical background. Tatyana, for example, is a teacher of physical education and life safety.

– How do children react to the bombings? I ask the teachers.

– They get scared, they get scared. They have been in distance learning for the third year: first it was covid, then SVO. They do not see their peers, they learn to communicate, – says Tatyana. – The elderly isolate themselves, they do not like entertainment events. Last year a kid said to me, “I’m not going to the disco, mommy and daddy are under fire, but I’ll dance?!” But here the team, communication and the guys become calmer, softer.

Tatyana – Makeevka’s escort

Photo: Grigory KUBATIAN

Going to the Ugra, Tatyana had no idea where she would end up. She was not familiar with either this group of children or the Russian North. He was worried. But already at the first joint event, everything fell into place.

– Here there is no rivalry and everything is based on friendship. All rejoice in the common success. And now they are crying, they don’t want to leave. The little ones say: they missed mom and dad, they will come home, they will hug them and they will go here.

“Yesterday your ginger attacked me,” says Elena Hareva, the camp organizer, with a laugh. She-she Hugs her and says: you are our princess. I just finished sixth grade.

Elena Khoreva in Yontekh Park

Photo: Grigory KUBATIAN


Even nature itself is a curiosity for Donetsk children: immediately on the new sports ground there is a forest with reindeer moss, blueberries and mosquitoes. There is a competition on the site itself: the guys make a presentation of current tourist destinations. Everything is like in the big international forums: five stands were built. One Makeevsky and Four are dedicated to Russkinskaya. Here they even try the fish soup that the teenagers cook according to the traditional recipes of the elders. I listen to what they say at the Makeevka booth:

There are many mines in our city. They are dug a kilometer deep. Every family has a miner,” says a boy, his face smeared with black paint. In his hands is a bowl of hot coals.

– Will you slander us too? someone asks

“Now it will pass and discredit everyone,” says the counselor seriously.

Spectators make way, not all want to stain.

– Kill me, – the girl says confidently to the “miner” and takes a step towards him.

– And Shubin is also in the mines, – another speaker picks up the lecture. -He is like a brownie, only mine. He leads the miners to the surface if they get lost. And they, coming down, leave him something to eat.

– There is a special mountain in Makiivka, it is called “terrikon”, – the new guy energetically continues. – How does it seem? The miners extract the useful minerals and put them in one pile, and the useless ones put them in another. There are a lot of useless ones, so it turns out a bunch of garbage.

Makeevka Presentation

Photo: Grigory KUBATIAN


There is no time to rest in the camp. One event after another. The presentation is over: the dance battle begins. Then they plant an alley of Hungarian lilacs (she lives to be 90) as a sign of friendship between Yugra and the DPR. A concert follows, where each of the units presents a musical number. Then the boys give roses to the girls.

Taking advantage of the gap in the program, I drag a group of guys from Makeyevka and Tatyana, who accompanies them, to the gazebo.

I start the conversation with two 16-year-old girls, these are Nastya and Ulyana. They have been friends since kindergarten. And here too, together, in the first detachment, the most adult and elegant. Going here, the girls took warm clothes with them (we were going north), but they were of no use.

– We adapted for a long time, – says Nastya. – It was hot. The mosquitoes are tired. And nature is beautiful. Clean Air.

– At first I did not want to go, – adds Ulyana. “It is dangerous at home, but it is home. But we have such a spiritual detachment that we immediately became friends.

– Here everyone hugs each other, – Nastya smiles embarrassedly. “At first it was strange. Then they got used to it. Now the main thing is not to spend at home when we return.

dinner party

Photo: Grigory KUBATIAN


Igor and Rinat are 13 years old. They are from the third group. Igor is a dense, cheerful and red-haired boy. He is the same “redhead” who calls all the women in the camp princesses. Rinat, like the antipode of him, low, serious. Rinat arrived at the camp with his 9-year-old sister, whom he cares for. This is the second time she has been to the Ugra, only she was in another camp.

– Do you like the north so much? Swamps, mosquitoes… – I ask Rinat.

– Like. Summer is warm here. We play football, I don’t notice mosquitoes.

Everything here is so beautiful, kind. You will not be sad and you will not be bored. The swamps are beautiful, pick up a friend of the “red-headed” Igor.

– And I like it, – adds Tatyana. – I want to swim, look how deep they are? There are white nights and at 3 in the morning the sun is already shining. If you haven’t been able to fall asleep, you won’t be able to.

Guys from Makeyevka – Igor, Rinat, Uliana, Nastya

Photo: Grigory KUBATIAN

– The best thing here is silence, calm, – says Rinat quietly. And in our house…

– Noisy?

– It’s not that loud… it’s scary.


Last year, Rinat was bombed and wounded. It was exactly September 1, the day of Knowledge. He helped his mother carry the bags from the store and went for a walk with a friend.

– We were walking when something very big exploded in the sky. Boo Boo! I have never heard of such a thing. We ran. I dropped my bike. A friend didn’t want to throw away his. I snatched it from his hands, shouting: run! And him: oh well, everything is calm now. I ran anyway, and he stayed on the playground. This is where the flights began. He was stunned. I look: a hole in the leg, blood comes out. Head in blood, back too. I am stunned, everything hurts. And I look: a friend is running, half of his arm was blown off by a fragment. Then three shells flew at us – the 155.

A friend was bandaged up in a store next door, then his father came and took him to the hospital. The tendon was torn, the bone was crushed. But his hand was saved. Rinat was able to get home.

– And how are you?

– Good. But every whistle makes me shudder. When we have shelling, everyone hides in the entrances. They are not allowed to close. Lately they have been hitting the town with cassettes. Arrivals in the morning and in the afternoon. I am sitting at home, our five-story building is shaking. Where the grandmother lives, she flew to the house next door.

dance battle

Photo: Grigory KUBATIAN

– Do your parents let you go out alone?

– Mom lets go, because she knows: I don’t get far when they’re heavily bombarded. Dad works, he’s a tanker. He comes to us and leaves immediately. One day he didn’t come for six months. But he always writes or calls.

“At least a little of our life here rested,” Tatyana sighs, with tears in the corners of her eyes. – Let’s leave a coin here under the mattress so that next year they invite us again.

Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.

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