“I missed my home”. Yurii Polieshko returned to his village by the contact line after some time in Russia despite damages to his house, loss of income and frequent shelling.
Liudmyla, 51 and Yurii Poleshko, 55, lives in the frontline village Zaitseve in Donetsk region. For the last three years they have been unable to find jobs and survive only owing to humanitarian assistance and relatives’ support.
“We used to have levelled life. We did our own business. My wife owned a hairdressing salon, I was the owner of ventilation system control enterprise in nearby Horlivka (currently non-government controlled area). We were providing our services in several regions – from Luhansk to Zaporizhzhia in eastern Ukraine. However, the conflict, which came to our country in 2014, turned our life upside down. Initially, when the hostilities started, we tried to continue our work, but when the crossing point was set up in our village, we were urged to shut down all our business, because of limited access to that area. It was in August 2014. ”, - says Yurii Poleshko.
Since the conflict outbreak, Zaitseve has become one of the hot spots of crossfire between conflicting parties. One part of the village is under Ukrainian Government control, another under de-facto authorities. Despite the ceasefire agreement, the hostilities are still ongoing., Usually the shelling starts there, when it gets dark, sometimes the incidents happen in the daytime. At the streets you can hardly find its residents, people try not to come out unless it is absolutely necessary. Most of the windows in the houses are closed with plywood, firewood and shields. People use all possible means to protect themselves. Many residents left the settlement, mostly the elderly people remained.
“We felt abandoned. For a while it was no man’s land. In 2014 it was even difficult to bury someone in the settlement, because administratively the settlement was subordinating to non-government-controlled Horlivka”, recalls Yurii.
“Initially we left the settlement in December 2014 after very heavy shelling, the whole night we were sitting in the basement. It was too stressful for us. For 8 months we were staying with relatives and friends. Our friend even proposed to buy a house for us in Russia, but we refused, because there is nothing like home”, - says Yurii.
“We cannot explain why we returned. We are probably too attached to the house. How could we leave all this? Yes, it is scary to hide in the basement. But when you come out from it you are home”, says Liudmyla.
In 2016 Poleshko’s house was damaged by shrapnels. They could enter the house only through the window, because the door was curved by the explosion and could not open. The family repaired the house. However, when you enter the house, you can still see the shelling traces; holes in the windows, ceilings and walls.
“I have nine years to wait before I can receive my pension. For three years we haven’t had any income. Now we are fully dependent on humanitarian assistance and our relatives”, - says Liudmyla.
Recently, the Poleshko family started receiving cash for foodstuff from NRC. Thus, the family will be secure with food for five months during the cold season.
“It is better to receive cash than to get in-kind assistance, because sometimes what you need is to buy the gas bottle before you can cook the food. Some people are on diet due to health issues, so they can buy food according to their own needs. For us such assistance is crucial. We are not pensioners yet. But we are vulnerable, because we cannot find the way to earn money. Psychologically it is difficult to depend on humanitarian assistance, as we used to be self-sufficient in the past”, - says Yurii.
Photo: Ingebjørg Kårstad/Norwegian Refugee Council