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Shell-Shocked, Ukrainian Town Rebuilds

Published: August 20, 2014 (Issue # 1825)



  • A pile of rubble sits in front of a multi-storey building in a residential area in Lysychansk, Ukraine, after the building behind got hit by a missile on Aug. 16 during fighting between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian rebels.
    Photo: Vitnija Saldava / AP

LYSYCHANSK, Ukraine (AP) Weeks after Ukrainian government forces recaptured Lysychansk from the rebels, the residents of this shell-shocked town near the Russian border say they hope simply to rebuild their former lives but fear that war could return to their doorstep.

Many homes and entire neighborhoods bear scars from the two-day fight for Lysychansk, a down-on-its-luck industrial town on the western bank of eastern Ukraines largest river. Three weeks after the fighting ended in a rebel defeat, residents still are waiting to regain access to essential utilities in their homes, if they still have any. Hundreds of houses and apartments were gutted, or blown to smithereens, by tank and mortar shells while their inhabitants cowered in reinforced basements.

We still dont have running water or gas. We only have electricity. How are people supposed to live? said Alexander Tretyakov, 53, who emerged from his own basement shelter last month to discover that a tank shell had collapsed the entire top floor of his home.

Tretyakov said some neighbors fared worse. They went into the basement in slippers alone and came out to see that nothing was left of their house, he said.

Many in this predominantly Russian-speaking town of 105,000 are sympathetic to the rebels cause but have accepted the Ukrainian armys victory as the better option because they dont believe they could live peacefully under rebel rule.

Tretyakov said he expects the Ukrainian government to pay to fix his home, but fears rebels could recapture the town, rendering any repairs now pointless. Hes keeping his basement windows covered in three layers of bricks, backed by buckets of water, just in case his family finds itself on the front line again.

We are not going to take these barricades down until this war ends. We dont know whether it ever will, he said.

For the time being, scenes of resurgent normality are playing out in Lysychansk alongside street rubble and high-rise residential battle zones. A childrens hospital on the edge of town lies in ruins. Everywhere, windows remain shattered or patched with plastic sheeting.

The ATMs have resumed dispensing Ukrainian hryvni, the national currency, and long lines of customers are forming for what may be their first access to cash in many weeks. Most shops in the towns five shopping centers have reopened, but prices are punitively high and stocks limited. Many travel on foot with shopping bags, partly reflecting how the retreating rebels stole private cars for their escape toward the Russian border barely 80 kilometers away.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Sunday, Dec. 21


The Zenit St. Petersburg basketball team returns to the northern capital this evening for a matchup with Krasny Oktyabr, a Volgograd-based basketball club. Tickets for the game, which tips off at 6 p.m. this evening, can be purchased on the clubs website or at their arena, Sibur Arena, on Krestovsky island.


Satisfy your sugar cravings during Sweet New Year, an ongoing seasonal festival at the Raduga shopping center. Each weekend of December will welcome hungry visitors to taste hundreds of different kinds of desserts. Workshops are open to visitors and seasonal gifts can also be purchased for those rushing to finish their New Year shopping.



Monday, Dec. 22


Pick out the latest fashions as holiday gifts for loved ones or as early presents for yourself during the Christmas Design Sale at Kraft on Obvodny Kanal, starting on Dec. 20 and continuing through Dec. 27. Designer clothes will be on sale every day of the week or you can buy something more festive to decorate the home while sipping on hot coffee and perusing the various master classes.



Tuesday, Dec. 23


Meet Arctic explorers Fedor Konukhov and Viktor Simonov during SPIBAs and Capital Legal Services event Arctic Expedition this morning in the Mertens House business center at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. The meeting will discuss the explorers ongoing eco-social project and how companies can use the project as a unique marketing opportunity. Email office@spiba.ru by Dec. 22 if you wish to attend.



Wednesday, Dec. 24


The Anglican Church of St. Petersburg we will be holding a Christmas Eve service at 7 p.m. led by Rev Wm. Shepley Curtis of the Episcopal Church. The service will be held at the Swedish Church at 1/3 Malaya Konyushennaya Ulitsa.



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