War in Ukraine | Despite the threat, life goes on near the front

(Kramatorsk) Viktoria Miroshnichenko is back to work in her toy shop which, like other shops, has just reopened in Kramatorsk, near the front lines in eastern Ukraine, despite the sounds of daily shelling in the distance.

Posted at 1:58pm

Benoît FINCK
Media Agency France

“It’s a bit scary, but you get used to it,” admits the saleswoman at the counter of the shop, which sells cuddly toys, bicycles and scooters for children.

The shop had closed its doors shortly after the start of the Russian offensive on February 24, along with most other shops in Kramatorsk, a town in the industrial Donbass region.

But in the last few weeks they have gradually reopened and many people are coming back. “In my street, where there are about 300 apartments, almost all the residents were gone, now they have almost all returned,” says Dr.me Miroshnichenko.

The situation is paradoxical. Kramatorsk, a large city in the center of what remains of Donbass under Ukrainian control, is gradually coming back to life as Russian artillery shelled Sloviansk to the north, Siversk to the northeast, and Bakhmout to the southeast.

But people have no choice but to go home, said Oleg Malimonienko, who just reopened his restaurant. “In 99 percent of the cases it’s because you have to eat well, pay the rent and the bills,” says the 54-year-old Chubby.

He now hopes that his establishment’s clientele will return, perhaps welcoming Ukrainian soldiers who can be seen all over the city.

“The soldiers are the ones who buy the most items from us, especially knives and daggers,” says Natalia Kiritchenko, a shop assistant at a small shop that has reopened after being closed for three months.

“We feel the threat”

“Like us, many people have returned to Kramatorsk, but they have no money,” adds this 56-year-old woman, who had no choice but to go back to work. She says she received government aid during the store’s closure, which was far from enough to make ends meet.

When we hear more or less heavy shelling from one side or the other, we sense the threat and wonder what awaits us.

Natalia Kiritchenko, Sales Assistant

The hardest thing about getting to work without a car is observed by Mme Miroshnichenko, “it’s public transport because the tram stops every time the bomb warning sirens sound,” and they howl many times from dawn to dusk.

“Since the store reopened ten days ago, I’ve come here before on foot,” or 50-minute walk, she adds.

Difficulties in getting around in and out of the city were precisely the reason why the “Centre for Bicycles” resumed its operations, explains one of the employees of this shop in the basement of a building, Vladimir Pozolotin.

“Many have asked me on my YouTube channel when we will reopen because some are afraid to take the car, others are out of gas or don’t want to get in the long lines at gas stations, so they buy a bike or come and have it repaired hers,” explains the 33-year-old, who cycles four kilometers to and from work every day.

At the moment, “the clientele only represents 10% of what it was before the war,” “but it’s better than nothing,” smiles the young man in a black tracksuit jacket, his cap screwed on his head.

He also says he’s getting used to the sound of the bombing, which is currently sparing Kramatorsk, where he has stayed since the conflict began.

“If it falls around here,” he said, referring to rocket fire that hit nearby towns, “we’ll see.” And in case of a serious threat to the city? ” Abandoned ? But where ? »

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