In Digest, Feature Articles, Ukraine

My Donbas challenge

By Yulia Malkina,, Dec. 19, 2014

It is December 19, 2014. It is as terrible a year as I have ever known. I wish only for the year to end as soon as possible. Right now, I’m sitting at the coffee shop of the town of Konstantinovka, Donetsk region. Outside the window, there are people in camouflage uniform with guns. I do not know for whom they fight, but they are so young that I would like to give them cocoa with milk and cookies. Maybe I will do that.

Christmas in Donetsk

Christmas in Donetsk

There are Christmas trees on sale in local markets. ATMs are still working, so people have come from the nearby villages early in the morning to get cash. And beautiful women lead their children by hand on the way to school. Time has sped up; shops are open from 6 am and I have a feeling that people are running fast to slip past the war…

I am so tired of the everyday filtering of information, like coffee grounds through clenched teeth, of the tetrabytes of state propaganda, hatred and lies. So I decided to come here from Kyiv and see for myself. In doing so, I am challenging myself–my peaceful life, the traditional New Year tangerines, cinemas and galleries. My eyes and ears are sharply attuned… and I’m scared. Yesterday in the train, I heard a woman talk to her husband about the [Sept 5] ceasefire, but today I was given this advice: “When you hear shots, get down on the ground and cover your head with your hands. We are used to the habit.”

There will be neither reports from me from the front line nor in-depth interviews with soldiers, militia members or fighters. I did not travel to here to see war but to see its underside and the ‘wounds’ of cities and of the hearts of the people. But I’m ready and I expect to see everything. I promised to myself that, whatever happens, I will be brave and honest.

It is 9:48 am. In few minutes, I will finish my coffee then push the ‘publish’ button and begin to submerge myself into this reality. I hope that all will be ok and that every day I will be able to write about what I see and experience here. I also dream to find myself back home for the New Year, to decorate the tree and smile to those who are waiting for me there.

This article has also been published in the ‘Speakout’ feature of Follow Yulia Malkina’s forthcoming reports on her Christmas season travel to Donbas on and on


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