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The wrong side of Donbass: Homes without owners and cats in gardens between mines

Date: June 15, 2024 Time: 16:55:06

Donetsk lives on, even under shelling.

Photo: Dmitri STESHIN


It’s a paradox, but I don’t feel like a local, and I don’t feel like a visitor either: I lived for ten years. It seems to have grown on this earth, but not completely. Although, in order to uproot my roots from the Donetsk land, considerable efforts will have to be made. The locals already sense that I am not a visiting passenger, although my well-rounded Muscovite “okane” hasn’t left.

With Sasha, the electrician, we somehow instantly found a common language – he installed a water heater in my wrecked hut. Such a typical Donbass guy: light, not an ounce of fat, he has a broken nose, but his speech is almost intelligent, no swearing. A fifth-rate welder, he works as a mechanic in the area, which he began to unwind and iron since the summer of 2014. There are three men in the housing office for 200 houses, the salary is 15 thousand, but there are hacks. That’s how it is for me. We smoke on the porch while the plastic pipe welder heats up. Sasha has a huge long weld burn on her forearm, fresh, still wet. She makes a face sometimes. I tell him: “let’s glue it, I have anti-burn ointment, there are plasters, go away, half the room is full of frontal medicine!” Sasha waves her hand

– In the air, it will tighten faster.

Photo: Dmitri STESHIN

He rolls up the left sleeve of his clean, ironed shirt; they all bear the same scars from the molten metal. Speaks:

– Good thing the shirt didn’t flare this time. They called us at night, in alarm. Yesterday there were bombings, did you hear it?

I nod. And how! Sasha continues:

– The neighbors began to flood, the pipe broke into fragments, in the apartment above. No one has lived there since the summer of 2014. It is unknown where the owners are. Maybe they died. No heirs have been announced. How do we do in these cases? The police arrive, a representative of the Housing Office, witnesses, well, I picked up the phone at night…

Sasha laughs, and I understand that she couldn’t help but pick up the phone, even though she was sleeping in a deep sleep:

– We open the apartment. The woman lived, insured. Four “plasmas”, in each room and in the kitchen. Autumn clothes on the hanger on the left, winter clothes on the right. Coat, hat, boots. She lived carefully. And on everything – a four-centimeter layer of dust, on all horizontal lines!

Photo: Dmitri STESHIN

I don’t think so, but Sasha is ready for this:

– I measured it myself, with the tip of a tape measure, everywhere four centimeters! For ten years the apartment remained intact, the neighbors have already changed the windows three times. And here, the glass is intact again, a shard went through the wall, pierced the pipe and got caught in this fur coat. Healthy, palm-sized, and still hot! In my opinion, there should be a fire there, like in a mine or a mill. The powder is dry, it tears no worse than TNT!

I realize:

– Waiting for an apartment, the mistress of something!

Sasha agrees.

– And come back. I patched up the pipe, closed all the valves, devised and closed the lock back and on top – a seal with a piece of paper. Her house is waiting.

We are not talking about when it will all end and, accordingly, a neat single woman will return. In the Donbass, this is an indecent topic of conversation. In this figure of silence hides a kind of holiness of the great martyrs.

Photo: Dmitri STESHIN


A friend asked for help and sent a scan of the paper. You can already see in the source that this is part of an official document. Here is the full text:

“Kushnerev Alexander Leonidovich, 02/07/1967, registered at the address: DPR, Ilovaisk, Shevchenko St. …

In August 2022 he arrived at the hospital in Valuyki, Belgorod region, then he was evacuated to the Military Medical Academy in St. Petersburg, where he is currently in the 3rd neurological department. He is diagnosed with partial amnesia. I can’t remember the biographical information. It is known that at the previous address in Ilovaisk Kushnerev AL he lived together with his mother Valentina Semyonovna Kushnereva. It is necessary to locate the mother or relatives to notify them and provide greater assistance to the injured.”

Photo: Dmitri STESHIN

I chose Sunday at 11 am for the visit, I’m sure someone will be home. I wondered on the way how my mother would react. She wondered if she could go as far as her son? I’ll get you a ticket, just in case. Is it better by train from Rostov? And where does she live? Let’s find out… But, I didn’t have to think about anything, I understood it from the doorbell, covered in cobwebs in three layers. And the mailbox was full of compressed papers, the bottom ones had already turned yellow. I called the neighbors, a chubby smiling woman answered. I felt cold at her words:

– So Valentina Semionovna died, at 14! There, in the yard, “Grad” tore it to pieces.

The neighbor showed me where. Between the sandbox and the dominoes table and the neighborhood evenings:

– He ran for medicine, and we were sitting in the basement, we saw everything from the doors…

– Do you know what happened to his son?

Photo: Dmitri STESHIN

The woman agreed.

– We know, yes. She is unconscious, in the hospital, after being shot in the head. They have no relatives, none. Two of them with his mother were all over the world. I think that Sasha simply does not want to remember anything and go nowhere. Nowhere and no one.

It was a dead end, and I didn’t think of any way out. Maybe it just doesn’t exist. It happens, it only hurts when you realize it.

Photo: Dmitri STESHIN


The first day of my life in Donetsk, I had a cat. She herself came from a wild garden, covered in southern grass up to her chest. Thin as a bicycle, the legendary breed “Russian Communal”. Judging by the drooping nipples, somewhere in the wild grass the cat had kittens. They drank it literally to the bottom: there is nothing to iron, the wool is somehow dull, matted, the look is hungry and hunted. Now they are not greasy dumps in Donetsk, they cannot be compared with those in Moscow.

In three days I got the kitten back on its feet with the help of Yenakiev’s hunting cream and sausages. When I gave the cat a finger-thick bacon skin with meat, she got very excited and ran off with a treat between her teeth, gleefully yelling “Me!” “Me!”

I appreciated his innate delicacy. Especially since no one has ever picked it up. I tried, she looked at me in amazement: they say, of course, that you can do everything, but why THIS?

The kitten did not break into the house by herself. She will eat, she will take it to the kittens, she will thank again, she will lie down near my feet so that she does not forget that she is my cat. Somehow very feminine. She always said goodbye to me, she saw me get into the car. And she always met. Few people know how bad the soul is on such business trips. Especially if you shake during the day, and at night there is no one to talk to with a word. And here, a living soul ended, glad to see you.

Photo: Dmitri STESHIN

I described this touching plot on social media. networks: they say, among this chaos of death, at least someone has found peace and some confidence in the future. However, I immediately received a dozen letters of self-righteous rebuke. For example: “Millions of people die there, and he feeds the cats. Shameless?”. I answered, they say, “one of the components of morality is a merciful attitude towards inedible domestic animals.” There were still curious messages, I read them aloud to kitty: “What are you doing! cream for a cat is white death, and sausages…”. The sausages were even worse, although, apparently, where? Kitty commented on these passages with obscenities in feline language, I just made out the Donetsk, unique “Sho ?!”.

Having completely trusted me, she called me several times to see her kittens, but I did not go. The owner of the house warned me several times:

“Don’t even think about going to the garden, there’s nothing to do there.” But he did not explain anything to me, maybe he was afraid that I would change my mind about renting this house. So I discovered it myself. Since last fall, the area has been bombarded with petal mines, and with almost one hundred percent probability, something is lying in the grass in the garden. Except kittens. I’ll wait until the kittens grow up and come on their own. I’m working in it.


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

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