In Donetsk and Lugansk, Russia, Ukraine

After being liberated from Neo-Nazi occupation, housing and infrastructure in Mariupol is being rebuilt.

By Stefan Natke, A Socialist In Canada, March 7, 2023  (This is a special report published on March 7, 2023 in the left-wing, German daily newspaper Junge Welt. The original is here. Below is the translation to English by A Socialist In Canada.)

Mariupol in March 2022

War damaged street in Mariupol in March 2022. (Photo credit:  Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, 2022).


Reconstruction of Mariupol

Housing in Mariupol is now being reconstructed. (Photo Credit: Arseniy Kotov for RT).


We are awakened again at seven in the morning by thunderous heavy artillery fire. But this time, the earth does not vibrate. Our companion and guide Ljoschka says, “Don’t worry, this time it’s our side, giving back what we received yesterday; a return shipment, so to speak.”

Our photographer Guillermo calls out: “Guys, there’s running water, but it’s only cold.”

After a shower and a quick breakfast,  we’re off for another day of our reporting visit. We’re told “Davai, davai‘! [Hurry up, hurry up!] Get on the bus, we’re going to Mariupol.”

As we leave Donetsk, we pass the city’s football stadium. Further into the suburbs, we pass destroyed factories. After leaving the last city checkpoint,  we’re on the highway to Mariupol. During the past few days we’ve been driving on roads full of large potholes, between the Donbass cities of Lugansk, Gorlovka and Donetsk. Today, we are roaring over a completely repaired motorway with a perfect asphalt surface.

Transportation of goods to Mariupol has absolute priority. We can see this for ourselves when we arrive. There are almost no undamaged houses here, while the renovation and construction work in the city on the Sea of Azov is in full swing. As we drive into the city center, we see new windows being installed on several rows of houses. A historic block of houses from the early Soviet era is being restored by a Turkish company. With the help of the Turkish members of our group, we can talk to the workers.

Trucks loaded with rubble or building materials drive past us non-stop. While old buildings are being renovated in the city center, new buildings are being built on open spaces. Entire, newly-build districts rise on the outskirts of Mariupol. We visit one of them and even have a look at the apartments. On the street by the playgrounds, we talk to the residents we meet there. Some used to live in the city center in an old building. Now they are looking forward to the new apartments.

They also tell us how, as Russians, they lived through the period prior to the Russian military intervention begun one year ago. “Suddenly we were strangers in our own country; we didn’t know anything like that before,” one of the residents tells us.

If their previous homes were destroyed in the fighting for control of the city during the past year, they receive a certificate that entitles them to a new home. Destroyed furniture will also be replaced by the Russian state. In the first year, there are no costs to pay; after that, the only bills to pay are for electricity, water and the cost of heating. Construction projects for new housing in Mariupol began in the summer of 2022.  The first residents have already moved in and more are moving in every day.

We return to the city center and visit the city’s train station, located directly on the shoreline of the Sea of Azov. Burnt-out trains are still standing on the tracks and the destruction of city’s y infrastructure is clearly visible. It will be a while before trains are back in operation. We cannot visit the Azov steelworks, made famous around the world some months ago, because the fascist, paramilitary battalions of Ukraine named ‘Aidar; and ‘Azov’ were holed up there and who knows what remains inside. But we can visit the town market. There is a lot of activity and a surprising numbers of goods are on offer. From vegetables to underwear to fried chicken drumsticks, everything is here.

As always, we want to talk to the people on the street. The experiences described to us by one woman are moving. She is glad she can now breathe freely again and that the nightmare of the occupation by Ukrainian neo-Nazi paramilitaries is over.

On this day, the sun announces the approaching spring for the people of Mariupol. After a small snack at the market, we get back on our bus and our reporting journey continues.

(An online subscription to Junge Welt costs 24 euros per month. Subscription information here.)


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