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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

Saturday, Sept. 20


Starting on Sept. 18 and ending tomorrow is the Extreme Fantasy Wakeboarding Festival in Sunpark by Sredny Suzdalskoye lake in the Ozerki region of the city.


Those after something more laid back can instead head to Jazz and Wine night at TerraVino with legendary jazz guitarist Ildar Kazahanov. 12/14 Admiralteyskaya Emb.



Sunday, Sept. 21


Learn more about African culture and get some exercise during todays Djembe and Vuvuzela, a bike ride starting in Palace Square that includes several stops where riders can listen to the music of Africa or watch short films about the continent. The riders plan to set off at 4 p.m. and all you need to join is a set of wheels.



Monday, Sept. 22


Do you love puppetry? If so, then be sure to go to BTK-Fest, a five-day festival that starts on Sept. 19 celebrating the art. Contemporaries from France, Belgium, the U.K. and other countries will join Russian artists to put on theatrical performances involving a variety of themes, materials and eras. Workshops and meetings are also scheduled for a chance to discuss the artistic medium in further depth.



Tuesday, Sept. 23


Marina Suhih, Director of the External Communications Department at Rostelecom North-West, and Yana Donskaya, HR Director for Northern Capital Gateway are just some of the confirmed participants of todays round table discussion on Interaction with Trade Unions being hosted by SPIBA. Confirm your attendance with SPIBA by Sept. 22.


Kino Expo 2014, an international film industry convention, will be at LenExpo from today until Sept. 26. The third largest exhibition of film equipment in the world, the expo focuses on not only Russia but former Soviet republics as well.



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