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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 Ukraine’s 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 don’t 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 army’s victory as the better option because they don’t 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. He’s 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 don’t 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 children’s 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 town’s 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

Friday, Nov. 21


Learn more about Russian labor laws at Labor Law Seminar 2014 at the Courtyard by Marriott St. Petersburg Center West Pushkin Hotel this morning at 166 Kanala Griboyedova. Sponsored by Baker and McKenzie and the Pepeliaev Group, the event begins at 9 a.m. and will discuss amendments to existing laws, employment terms, risks of termination and other pressing matters.


Educate yourself about educational careers at Education and Career XXI — November 2014, a two-day fair hosted at Lenexpo convention center on Vasilievsky Island that welcomes students and educators alike to develop relationships between scholarly institutions and learn more about the educational market in Russia and abroad.



Saturday, Nov. 22


Russian Premier League-leaders Zenit St. Petersburg return from the international break to take on Kuban Krasnodar at Petrovsky Stadium this evening at 7 p.m. Tickets for the game can still be purchased on the club’s website, at the Petrovsky Stadium box office or in any of the club’s merchandise stores.



Sunday, Nov. 23


Get in the holiday spirit at today’s Winter Bazzar at the Astoria Hotel. Featuring gifts from around the world such as French eclairs, Dutch cheeses and Indian jewelry, the annual event organized by the International Women’s Club will feature 18 international stands and raise money for charity through the sales of a diversity of products that further illustrate the city’s international connections.



Monday, Nov. 24


Dr. Axel Schulte, Department Head at Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics in Dortmund, Germany, is the featured speaker at the SPIBA Industrial Committee lecture on “The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Digitalization of the Supply Chain.” The event begins at 4 p.m. at the Graduate School of Management at 3 Volkohvsky Pereulok and registration is required by Nov. 21 either by emailing office@spiba.ru or calling 325 9091.



Tuesday, Nov. 25


Tag along with AmCham during their “Industrial St. Petersburg” Tour program today. This incarnation of the ongoing series will visit Philip Morris Izhora and include an Environmental Health and Safety Committee meeting.


Find out how to expand your business east during the “Business With China” forum beginning today and concluding tomorrow at the Lenexpo convention center. The largest Russian forum dedicated to business with the Asian giant, topics that will be discussed include logistics, customs clearance, trade financing and many more.



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