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In eastern Ukraine “we live, it’s a good day”

#eastern #Ukraine #live #good #day

Leaning on her cane, Olga Dekanenko walks through the rubble and debris of her home in eastern Ukraine, which was badly damaged in a Russian attack in the early hours of Saturday.

Workers pump water out of a deep, 10-meter-wide crater with a burst pipe outside Deanenko’s home in Konstantinovka, an industrial town on the front lines of the war between Ukraine and Russia.

Their neighbors look wearily at the sight that has become all too familiar in times of war. A woman covers her mouth in shock as she passes, but walks on without saying a word.

“We’re alive, it’s a good day,” the 67-year-old Deanenko told AFP with a weary smile.

“This is where my two children were born,” she adds, lifting family photos from the rubble.

In the upturned garden her dog lies curled up and breathing heavily, still reeling from the shock of the morning’s events.

Dekanenko was sleeping when it happened.

Her small bedroom overlooks the garden where the rocket landed. She woke up on the floor, covered in a mess of blankets, pillows, and rocks.

– nostalgia –

Dekanenko calmly recalls her days as an employee at one of Konstantinovka’s many smelting works that made the city an industrial hub in Soviet times.

She worked for a nickel factory that offered good pay and early retirement at age 50 because of the hazardous working conditions.

“I can’t say that I regret this time, but of course we old people have a longing for the Soviet era,” says Dekanenko with a smile.

But she admits that “it’s not the same for young people”.

Her younger sister Nina Chuprino recalls that until the 1960s the Donetsk region, where her city is located, was called “Stalin region” after the Soviet leader.

After the fall of the USSR in 1991, factories in the city of around 70,000 people gradually began to close, and many residents decided to leave the country.

In this industrial region with many fluent Russian speakers, many of Kyiv feel abandoned and are cultivating a pro-Moscow vibe.

Donetsk and neighboring Lugansk lie in the Donbass coal-mining region of eastern Ukraine, which has become the main target of Russia’s February invasion.

Parts of the region have been controlled by Russian-backed separatists since 2014. Konstantinovka was captured by the rebel forces in the same year, but was recaptured by Kiev’s troops a few months later.

– ‘No matter who comes’ –

Dubbed the “Red” district — another nod to the city’s Soviet past — the neighborhood has been hit three times in the past four days as Russia ramped up its offensive in the east.

“Maybe there are Ukrainian soldiers in the school,” says a 60-year-old man who prefers not to give his name, nestled between the apartment buildings.

Several local residents had issued the same statement to explain the frequent strikes, but without hostility.

When Ukrainian troops hide there, a local resident says, pointing to a large disused building, “next time there will be slaughter.”

Moscow regularly accuses Ukrainian armed forces of hiding in schools, hospitals or among civilians.

In front of Deanenko’s destroyed house, 15-year-old red-haired Margarita can’t hold back her tears.

“I’m afraid there won’t be anything left of our city soon. I think the Russians will come at some point… hopefully the army can defend us,” she says, her voice shaking.

Russian forces, which now control almost the entire Lugansk region, have been pushing for several weeks to conquer Donetsk as well.

“We’re just workers, farmers. It doesn’t matter who comes. If we get work, a normal life, then it’s good,” sighs a man, turns around and walks away.

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