Lately posts about the refugees arriving from the Eastern parts of Ukraine have started popping up on Facebook more frequently. These posts usually talk about how the refugees aren’t behaving in the right manner, are rude and displeased with everything, even though they themselves have been the least politically active residents of Ukraine.
The same thing is happening on the Vesti radio station, where Hornopolskiy was broadcasting about how the residents of the eastern oblasts are traitors who voted in favor of the DNR and LNR at the referendum, and are now arriving to the central and western Ukraine, and more so, behaving arrogantly and unceremoniously.
It all somehow resembled yet another round of propaganda, aimed at causing quarrels among Ukrainians and drawing a boundary between those who are Ukrainians and those who are residents of the eastern oblasts, who are supposedly so different that there can be no mutual understanding. So that when deciding where to flee from he war, the residents of eastern oblasts would not choose Ukraine.
Who would benefit from this? I think all of us clearly know and that person can remain unnamed. One state in the whole world is ready to pay good money for mutual hatred among Ukrainians and to destroy everything and everyone who is impeding his country from satisfying its imperial ambitions and delusions of grandeur.
I have to admit I was always skeptical towards people from Donetsk, Luhansk and Mariupol, because these were the eastern densely populated cities that had ensured victory for Donetsk bandits like Yanukovych in the elections. But even I was left with a negative impression from the peremptory statements made on social networks about how distinct the “eastern” people are, compared to us “central” and “western” people.
So, when we received a call from the social welfare officials, asking me to grant temporary accommodation to a family from Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast, I told my husband: “This is it! Now we have an opportunity to see for ourselves, what the people from the eastern oblasts of Ukraine are really like.
As it happened, we weren’t given the entire family, but two women who were friends, as it is very difficult to get out of Kramatorsk. The daughter would maybe come later, but her husband, unlikely. Men were being prevented from leaving the town by the local “authorities,” meaning the local criminals.
To be honest, the first impression wasn’t a particularly pleasant one. The two women, Valya and Anna, turned out to be quite unfriendly, especially Anna, who walked past me as if I wasn’t there, and I think she didn’t even say “Hello.” As we walked up the house stairs, I was trying to figure out what would be the most convenient way for them to begin and where they would feel most comfortable changing clothes, to which they either replied curtly or said nothing. Overall, the hospitality on my part was met with blank faces and silence.
Feeling very uncomfortable, I showed them to the room that was prepared for them. Valya and Anna silently looked around the room and continued talking only to social agency official, clearly ignoring me.
I felt as if I was a seller trying to forcefully sell a product to tourists for a suspect price. When the social worker asked them whether they found the building suitable or not, Anna replied: “OK, we accept your terms for now,” looking at me. I thought I’ve heard it wrong: what terms? I am offering free accommodation for people who need help, that’s all. The first thing I thought to myself was: I screwed up!
The social workers left, and we got to talking, as I had to show them around.
What can I say? After 30 minutes of talking, two completely different people appeared in front of me: wonderful, smiling and friendly. They were paying compliments and appeared to like everything. The whole time they kept on repeating that they felt really awful being in our way and kept offering help. Overall, their hearts literally melted.
A real information war is being waged over there: they believed that people from Donetsk were hated in central Ukraine, that sinister banderites were manning at the approaches to Kyiv: men from the Maidan, with submachine guns to shoot at the people arriving from Donbas.
“Well, I am from the Maidan,” I smiled. “I am the main banderite, and look at me…”
The next day, the village mayor and his wife brought a half full sack of potatoes and a bag full of various food for them. This time round they were the ones in shock. They thought that they would have to hide the fact that they are from Donetsk Oblast, and it turned out the other way round. The words “We are from Kramatorsk” had the same effect on everyone: they all wanted to help these people.
In the evening, Anna told me: “You know, if I were to tell my family and friends how we were received over here, no one would actually believe me.” Then they told us about what the DNR was like: the population was roughly divided in half, into those who worked and those who didn’t. The second group is earning money by helping the local criminals to reclaim their “own” territory and they, in turn, are actively supported by the Russian mercenaries, “cossacks” and Chechens.
Now I want to appeal to all of the xenophobes, Russian trolls and provocateurs! Stop talking nonsense about “rude Donetsk residents” and “Luhansk traitors.” You don’t have their manners and their Ukrainian language. Do you know what kind of hell they have come from? Behind their vigilance and gloom, there is a hidden fear of an imaginary reaction to themselves. A reaction already hammered into their heads since 2004 by Yanukovych’s pre-election slogans, and it is still there now.
If you are real Ukrainians, get your butts off of your sofas and give a call to the nearest social welfare office or to its contact center in Kyiv and take people in, as many as you can. You too, could end up in this kind of situation tomorrow. And it would be you running with your kids into the unknown from a war staged by Russia, hoping that someone from among your fellow citizens would shelter you.
If we want to hold out against this and win, mutual readiness to help and support each other, whether these are refugees from Luhansk, Mariupol or Crimea, is the bottom line.
Oh and by the way, it’s very unlikely that stupid posts on social networks will divide us: we aren’t that stupid.
Our guests from Kramatorsk arrived three days ago, but they’ve already found jobs. I googled for vacancies and got many results. Thank God, their speciality is in demand: trowel worker, painter and plasterer. They are off to work tomorrow and are already looking into the options for permanent lodging. I can only wish them all the best!
Translation: Dasha Darchuk
Edit: Lidia Wolanskyj