“At first, they even spared us bread”
Maria (name changed), Mariupol
I have always been for Russia - we do not have a drop of Ukrainian blood. My husband is from Stavropol. When planes flew to bomb Azovstal, we rejoiced. And, of course, they only wanted to leave for Russia.
We were selected from Mariupol on March 22. I had to make a circle: first, go west, spend the night there, and then along the district in the direction of Novoazovsk. From there we were sent for filtering, the phones were checked - everything that was there was downloaded. But we passed the test easily, because it was immediately clear that we were for Russia.
In Rostov-on-Don, there was no place in temporary accommodation centers (TACs). But since we were by car, we were sent to the city of Salsk, Rostov Region, and settled with others in the school's gym. Thank you, of course, for this. Only there for some reason they did not drown. The hall is huge, the beginning of April - and very cold. We began to swear, and only when we left on the third day, the heating was still given.
Also, the food was terrible. Chinese noodles and some very strange cabbage rolls with raw cabbage and raw rice. Even after a month and a half in the basement, it was impossible to eat.
Then we got out to relatives in the Stavropol Territory. And since these are elderly people and they could not support us, we spent all our money in three months. Although Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin ordered to hire us with certificates of temporary asylum, no one wanted to hire us. As soon as they hear that there is no citizenship: “Sorry, we will call you back.”
As soon as they hear that there is no Russian citizenship: “Sorry, we will call you back”
The migration service is a separate torment. My husband and I applied for citizenship at the same time. So they gave him a passport, and they dragged me for a month, then another month. Even the referendum on joining Russia has already passed, as if I automatically had to become a Russian woman. But neither I nor the child was given citizenship during my life in the Stavropol Territory.
In general, we decided to go to a big city - all of a sudden there will be more luck. Our friends were evacuated to Voronezh and called to them, saying that everything was fine with them there. True, they did not want to receive us in their TAPs, and at first they did not even begin to talk. Sent to the Ministry of Emergency Situations, they said that there were no places. And only thanks to the fact that my child and I were placed in a pioneer camp in the forest, 20 km from the city. The problem is that our child is allergic, and the forest is coniferous. She is also allergic to pine needles. So all the time she lived on pills. I even wrote a letter to the president to have us relocated.
The conditions were the same. Old crumbling beds, shared shower and toilet. But it's all possible to survive, if not for the bad food and bestial attitude. At first, they even spared us bread. The slices were cut so thinly that they were already translucent. This was corrected only after a big scandal, when people could not stand it and went to swear at the director of the TAP.
Once a neighbor came to dinner later than the others, and she simply did not have enough food. A canteen worker took out a bag of old cold pasta from somewhere under the counter and poured her a plate. Part of it woke up, so she gathered it with her hands and also put it on a plate. Nate - eat.
In general, everyone who works there communicated with us as if they were doing a huge favor. But we do not eat at their expense! They allocate money for us.
The TAP staff talked to us as if they were doing a huge favor
And the most important conflict occurred when we had to go to Mariupol for a short time. During the evacuation, we could not take out the mother-in-law, and she died. I had to find her and bury her. In addition, her apartment was recognized as ownerless, although her husband was registered in it. In general, there are five owners there - there is also a husband's sister with children, but they left for the west. We have different political views with them. In general, it was necessary to register an apartment for her husband so that it would not be taken away. And for another apartment in which we lived with the whole family, and which burned down, try to get compensation.
We went to the TAP director and explained that we needed to leave for a while. We asked to leave a room for us. He raised a wild cry and announced that he would not keep the room. I did not know whom to ask for help, and turned to the Investigative Committee. From there, the director received a call, and he nevertheless accepted a statement from us. I even took a picture of it just in case. And, as it turned out, not in vain. Because when we returned, they didn't want to let us inside.
In Mariupol, we have achieved nothing. It was easier for us, because we issued Russian passports. The attitude towards such people is much better than towards those who have Ukrainian documents. But everything works very slowly and badly.
Mother-in-law, for example, we never found. She died at home, she was taken by employees of the Ministry of Emergency Situations directly from the apartment, with all the documents. But they buried in a large mass grave and did not leave any information where exactly. Therefore, in the morgue, they opened a folder in front of us with photographs of three thousand corpses of unidentified women about her age and told us to look for it ourselves. I had enough for 300 photos, I could not see more. The husband withstood 450. But there was no mother-in-law on them. I don't even know what to do next.
Nothing happened with our burned-out apartment either. We have an adult daughter who lived in Kyiv before the outbreak of hostilities, and then left for Poland. And I can't find her. We shared the apartment with her. So, local officials said that all apartment owners should apply for compensation at once, they referred to the “DPR” resolution No. 175 adopted back in the summer. And without our daughter, we will not receive any compensation. How to deal with those whose co-owners of the apartment are missing, I'll never know. My husband also did not have time to arrange anything, because there are huge queues. So now it will be necessary to go to Mariupol again in March.
Soon after returning, we still managed to change the TAP. In the new place, the conditions are much better, and the child has no allergies. But they don't want to let us go to Mariupol in March either.
In any case, we don’t have our own apartment, and the mother-in-law’s apartment is not suitable for habitation. There is neither heat nor water. My husband found a job as a chief mechanic in Voronezh. And we are thinking of buying at least some housing here. Our only hope is maternal capital. After all, it relies on all children born after 2009. But in the Pension Fund, where you need to draw it up, they don’t want to do anything without the passport of their eldest daughter, about whom I don’t know anything. I wrote a complaint to the main department of the Pension Fund in Moscow. Suddenly help.
“At some point they started to tell us directly: “When will you dump us!”
Ksenia (name changed), Debaltseve
When it all started on February 24, my mother and daughter and I went to the evacuation. Our city has been controlled by the “DPR” for many years, and women with children were offered to go to Russia for a while. The husband and son were not released, because mobilization was announced in the "DPR" at that time. We traveled by train to Rostov-on-Don for four hours. Five buses were waiting at the station. I asked the driver where they would take us. He replied that he did not know. They will call and tell you. As a result, they were brought to one of the villages of the region, to the monastery.
It was received well at first. Shower, toilet, repair is good. The food was delicious: sweets, sausages for children, butter, cheese, sausage. There were even fruits. And so it went on, while journalists came to us and made reports about us. And when they stopped coming to us, everything changed immediately.
We fed deliciously while journalists visited us and made reports about us.
In the morning they began to give hercules with such black dots. I took a closer look - it's spoiled cereal, with a bug. She went to her mother to complain. She pretended not to know anything. And the food continued to be bad. For lunch, soup with old stinky lamb. Dinner is just pasta with gravy. Once I went to their refectory when they had some guests: salads on the table, red fish. Our children have never seen anything like it in this monastery.
It's good that the volunteers helped with money, and we could buy food. People wanted to help, they brought us good things, clothes, bedding. It just didn't reach us. The girls and I saw through the window how all this was unloaded and carried somewhere, and then we were given only torn sheets.
People helped and brought good things, but we got torn sheets
From a certain moment in the monastery they began to say directly to us: “When will you dump us!” A lot, they say, you want everything. There were constant complaints to us that we spend electricity, that a lot of water is spent on washing. But we are many families, and we need to wash and wash. After this monastery, I can no longer go to church. Praying fails. How can they act like this when people are in such grief?
I know that the state allocated money for our maintenance. By God, if they would give us their hands, we would eat better and get better settled.
Once, for example, they put butter on the table with the smell of mold. We went to complain, and mother called the police. They came and started chastising us. They said that one guy from Rostov had already died "due to the fact that you have a war." Some official also came and cursed. Until I told him, on the advice of volunteers, “We are under the protection of the Russian Federation.” He immediately got scared, jumped up and left.
We lived in the monastery for three months, then the TAP was closed, and we returned home. Our house is standing, my husband and son remained intact. Fights go on, we hear explosions, but far away. If they approach again, they will have to go again, what can you do.
“Some children have a noticeable setback in development, and no one takes care of them”
Nika Karakonstantin, Kharkov region
I lived in the village of Tsirkuny, this is near Kharkov, towards Belgorod. And on February 24, already at 5 am, we had Russian troops. The eldest son just managed to leave for the city, to the lyceum for the zero lesson. He did not return back, no buses ran. He is now in Ukraine. And four other children and my husband and I are in Russia.
In our village, the Russian military had a base: soldiers, equipment, a field kitchen. Only we were not fed from this kitchen. At first, the military simply opened the shops in the village and told us to take what we needed. I didn't have a car, it's far from the store. Whatever she could, she brought along. Then the food ran out, the children began to starve. I collected leftovers from the Russian trenches. They have dry rations of the Crimean company "Friendship of Peoples". And now all the trenches were littered with boxes with this inscription. Such is the “friendship of peoples”.
I collected leftovers from the Russian trenches. They have dry rations of the Crimean company "Friendship of Peoples"
There was no gas or electricity in the village. Water was collected in an old well with a gate - it does not need electricity to work. The temperature in the house was 8 degrees. All the children have a cold. As we found out later, our little one, four months old, had pneumonia.
Russian soldiers were not evil, they were silent and uncommunicative. We all tried to figure out when it would be possible to leave. And they didn't answer. At some point, they were heavily shelled, and they did not release the refugees, so that no one would tell the Ukrainian troops their location. There was no more evacuation.
But a month later I realized that I had to take the children away. There is a field of fire between Tsirkuny and Kharkov, it is impossible to get in that direction. It remained to go to Russia. The military said: get in the cars and drive, but we can't guarantee anything. Indeed, it all depended on luck. Fellow villagers took me and my children with them, so they shot the car in front of us. The one that was following us, too. Who, I don't know. And we were lucky, we got there.
The border was crossed at Nekhoteevka - this is a standard checkpoint through which Belgorod residents always went to Kharkov for shopping in peacetime. I had all my documents and children's documents with me, so we drove through without any problems. I was the first mother of many children there with four children, and they did not know what to do with me. But they assured me that all this would not last long. “In two weeks, everything will be over, and you will return home,” they said.
The temporary accommodation centers were overcrowded. But since the children were sick, we were taken to the regional children's hospital for a week. My dad has a doctor herself, I know many doctors, so what struck me the most in this hospital was complete indifference. Maybe they treat the Russians better, but they did not show us the slightest sympathy. No psychological assistance was provided to the children, and after all, after that month they were in a very serious condition. The attitude was as if we ourselves had come to them of our own free will for some reason.
What struck me most about the Russian hospital was the complete indifference
A week later we were taken to a children's camp in the town of Stroitel, north of Belgorod. And they promised that we could live there as long as necessary. However, the very next morning they tried to take us by bus to other regions. Moreover, they were going to send me with two children to Magadan, and the 15-year-old eldest daughter with a three-year-old sister in her arms - to Tatarstan. I miraculously persuaded them to give us some time. I contacted a friend from Yekaterinburg, we once studied together in Odessa. And he helped us a lot. I rented an apartment in Belgorod and remotely ordered a Yandex taxi so that we could get there. I was in a foreign country, without money.
Volunteers helped with food, sometimes it was possible to take food in the monastery. The allowance was given once and only in July at the Red Cross department. They received 10 thousand rubles for each, I was just able to pay the debts for the apartment.
But we had to stay, we couldn't go anywhere from Belgorod. After all, I did not know what happened to my son and what happened to my husband. The military did not let him in with us, he stayed in the village. So I didn't even know if they were alive. Fortunately, both are alive. Husband got to us only in April. All beaten up, he still won't tell me what happened to him. Now he has found a remote job - he is my furniture designer.
Husband got to us only in April. All beat up, he still won't tell me what happened to him.
While I waited, I did not sit idle. Met the volunteers. In Belgorod there is a non-state association "The Tenth Circle", which helps refugees. I started working in their warehouse, sorting out humanitarian aid. I already had experience in charity work in Ukraine, we helped large families. So I was able to set up some processes.
In the summer I got a job at a kids club. I'm a preschool teacher. Only nobody confirms my diplomas in Russia. So here I am, as it were, an ignoramus.
I am a preschool teacher. Only no one confirms my diplomas in Russia
And then the most important thing happened - I opened an adaptation center for refugee children. It's called Teremok. The premises - a former yoga room - were provided free of charge by one entrepreneur. Paints, games, accessories were collected by different people.
All children from Ukraine are very traumatized psychologically after the experience. Many have lost their fathers. For some, there has been a noticeable setback in development. And no one else does them. They don't even go to school. After all, all Belgorod children have been transferred to distance learning for security reasons. Some of the refugees study in Ukrainian schools, some in Russian, but all are online. And our children meet, draw, communicate. I see their progress.
But I work in "Teremka" alone and for free. And among the locals, I can’t find anyone who would also be ready to work with children for free at least twice a week.
Almost all of my fellow villagers left for Europe. But what am I going to do there, live on welfare? And here I am needed, I help children who no one else will help.
For many Ukrainians, I am a traitor: if you didn’t leave, if you stayed, then you support the enemy. In addition, I received a Russian passport. But he is my survival tool. I have a passport, but instead of a residence permit there is a blank page.
For many Ukrainians, I am a traitor: if you didn’t leave, if you stayed, then you support the enemy
I have no special love for Russia. I am not Russian or Ukrainian, I am Gagauz. For me, both of these languages are not native. I really want to go home, where are our games, photos, a piece of land. Until February 24, I had a normal life, which is no more. The children's club in Kharkov, where I taught, was destroyed by shells.
Return there? Another offensive may well begin, how can I put my children in such danger? And here in 10 months I made many acquaintances and an important business. I will stay just out of spite, just out of stubbornness. I will show people who do not care about refugees, children, how to work. Let them be ashamed.