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War in Ukraine: in the footsteps of the last displaced people fleeing the hell of the bombings in Donbass


In the Donbass, scenes of desolation follow one another and many inhabitants are forced to flee. Immersion in the footsteps of these displaced people.

“You are entering the area of ​​operations of the Ukrainian United Forces. Take care of yourself” is it written by way of welcome on the large sign that marks the entrance to the Donbass region at war. “Pray to God, protect your people, protect Ukraine”, can we read a few kilometers further along the deserted road that leads to Pokrovsk.

Barricaded windows

Few people live outside. The windows of the houses are lined with thick plywood panels and the iron curtains of the shops are down. This city of 65,000 inhabitants in Donetsk Oblast seems empty. Without the rose beds that populate the embankments, the place would be gloomy despite the sun.

It was a former governor, I am told, returning in the 1960s from a visit to Versailles where he was captivated by the rose gardens of the château, who demanded that each inhabitant plant a rose. They were a million to carry out the ukase of the governor. Something to brighten up the grayness of the slag heaps and recall the red color of the Party.

Donbass roses linger

Today, despite the war, and the end of the Soviet Union, the roses of Donbass persist. Even in front of the station, the last one that still works to evacuate the displaced who are fleeing the bombardments of the Russian army, which is nevertheless supposed to have come to free them “of the Ukrainian yoke”.

A hundred families have just arrived by bus. They had been quickly regrouped under fire in Lyssytchansk, before being evacuated at full speed by the volunteers as the battle raged. On the other side of the Donets River, the twin town of Sievierodonestsk is three quarters conquered by the Russian army. A last square of Ukrainian fighters are still fighting in the Azot chemical plant. A handful of civilians were still stuck in this hell on earth. They are here today.

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“They are probably the last ones to be able to leave the area. We have to evacuate everyone from the area. It’s too dangerous to stay,” local Civil Security chief Iakiv Nemykin told me, dressed in his blue uniform. “This war is a disaster. The two peoples have nothing to do with it. It is the politicians who are guilty and it is the civilians who suffer.”

The city has already received missiles. The station too. Two freight cars exploded further down the tracks. “Forty tonnes of food went up in smoke,” a Ukrainian humanitarian assured me. A risk that Nina Gloskova, 37, and her husband Alexander, 34, took with their four little girls: Lada, the eldest, 12, Victoria, 7, Anna, 3, and the youngest, Ekatherina, 18 months old.

“Rescuers arrived saying, ‘Come with us now. Then it will be too late. We will no longer be able to evacuate you!”. We left in five minutes with our bags,” the young woman tells me, her eyes filled with tears. “We had stayed three months in the basement of our building. We had moved in with mattresses. The children never left. They fell ill. in the neighborhood. With each explosion, the walls shook. The little ones jumped up in fear. You don’t get used to this kind of situation. They will bear the scars of what they have been through.”

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“My brother burned to death in his burning house”

“Me, I was going to look for wood and food to cook on a fire in front of the building hoping that a shell would not fall on me, tells me Alexander, Nina’s husband, a technician in a steelworks. “never thought that a war would happen to us. We have lived decades of peace with Russia. My brother lives there. I went to see him often. I never felt contempt as a Ukrainian, nor encountered any problems .”

Russian-speaking like the majority of the inhabitants of Donbass, he logically believed that Putin was going to spare the population he said he wanted to save, annexing at the same time former territories of Greater Russia, once conquered by Queen Catherine II.

By bombing cities, the opposite happens. 90% of the inhabitants of this region supposedly acquired by Moscow, have taken refuge in western Ukraine, to avoid the cane of the Kremlin and flee the Russian soldiers, who are not welcomed with flowers as thought. , as the new Tsar, Vladimir Putin.

They indeed behave like roughnecks and pay little attention to civilian populations, Slavic cousins ​​who nevertheless speak the same language. “If I didn’t stay in my village of Roty, it’s because the Russians razed it to the ground,” Luba, a 61-year-old woman, told me in the neighboring compartment. My brother burned to death in his burning house. I couldn’t bury him because of the fighting. We said to ourselves: Putin said he was going to protect us. He’s not going to shoot us!”

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