Why do they come back?.. Money and other reasons force Ukrainians to live with danger

Anna Protsenko has been unable to move away from her region of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine for more than two months after the authorities asked them to evacuate their homes and go to safer places.

But starting a new life elsewhere was difficult, expensive and inconvenient for her and her family. Two days after she returned to her home near the front line with Russian forces, a missile hit the home of the 35-year-old as she enjoyed the afternoon under a pear tree in her back garden.

Protsenko was seriously wounded, which later on that fateful day led to her death.

Anna and her family were no exception among the Ukrainians, who returned to the rural or industrial communities near the front line of the region, but thousands did so, despite the great danger, because they did not rely on other, albeit safer places, could not live.

‘We have nowhere else’

Anastasia Rusanova, a friend and neighbor of Anna Protsenko, expresses the experience of living in places other than their usual area: “We can’t live there easily, they don’t rent us elsewhere and we still have to pay the rent , but here in the Donetsk region, everything is ours So there is nowhere else we can go.”

Volunteers have been roaming the Donetsk region since the start of the Russian invasion at the end of last February to help vulnerable groups evacuate, but these efforts often end in failure, and the opposite is happening now.

The Pokrovsk mayor’s office estimates that 70 percent of the evacuees have returned home.

In the larger city of Kramatorsk, an hour’s drive from the front line, officials said the population dropped to about 50,000 from 220,000 in the weeks after the Russian invasion, but has since risen to 68,000.

Just as it is frustrating for the Ukrainian authorities as some civilians return to war zones, the residents of Donetsk region are also frustrated.

Some described feeling unwelcome by their Ukrainian counterparts in some parts of the country, as Russian speakers among Ukrainian speakers. Moreover, lack of money was the main problem, often for some.

The Donetsk region and its economy have been wracked by conflict since 2014, when Russian-backed separatists began fighting the Ukrainian government.

“we would break up”

In a damp house in the village of Malotaranivka on the outskirts of Kramatorsk, pieces of cloth were stuffed into the cracks of the windows to prevent ventilation.

Tamara Markova, 82, said she and her son, Mykola Ryaskov, spent only 5 days as evacuees in the central city of Dnipro before deciding to return to their home region of Donetsk.

She notes that the authorities would have separated her from her son if they had continued there.

Tamara was told that she would be taken to a nursing home, and that her son, who was paralyzed after suffering a stroke, was going to a home for the disabled. And when she heard this, she decided to go back to her house quickly, even if it was a danger to their lives.

Now, when she hears the siren of an air raid, Markova goes to shelter with the neighbors “until the bombing stops”.

Humanitarian aid is delivered once a month. You don’t know how they will manage in the winter, and whether they will be supplied with gas to heat their home or not.

The elderly lady believes that “things were much easier in the times of the Soviet Union,” and expresses her lack of support from the state, but at the same time she hates Vladimir Putin and his destructive policies for surrounding societies and asks him to step down.

Just as a Yume evacuation train leaves Pokrovsk for the relatively safer western Ukraine, another train arrives daily for people who have decided to return home.

While the evacuation train is free, the return train is not.

Oksana Tserkovny took the train home with her 10-year-old daughter two days after the deadly July 15 attack in Dnipro, after staying there for more than two months, struggling to find work.

After returning to her home in Pokrovsk, Tserkovny plans to return to her former job in a coal mine.

In addition to the deadly attack, the cost in Dnipro, already full of evacuees, was another concern for Tserkovny.

She says she and her family stayed with relatives, “but if we had to rent, it would be difficult and expensive, from 6,000 hryvnias ($200) a month for a studio, and you wouldn’t be able to find it.”

Taxi drivers say that many of their customers are people who want to take them to the train to return to the areas they came from “because their money has been wasted and has expired or is about to expire.”

The driver, Vitaly Anikiev, says that in mid-July a woman who had returned from Poland after feeling out of place was riding with him. When they reached her village near the front line, it seemed or her house was bombed, because there was a hole in her house, “She cried, but she decided to stay.”

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