Talakivka: Village Between War and Peace
On September 7, 2019, Russian hybrid forces attacked Ukrainian positions in Donbas 11 times. But attacks on civilian areas remain the hardest challenge to overcome - in the war in eastern Ukraine. Residents of Talakivka village woke up in the morning to the frightening sounds of shelling. This village is stuck between war and peace, as it is located between the Eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol and Russian-occupied territories to the east
“It’s like that every morning. Today, they started early for some reason. Usually they start shooting at half past 6. It’s their way of saying ‘Good morning Ukraine!’ It happens all the time. But today, they started at 4:00 a.m., but that was just a little, but then, at half past 5, they were banging properly!” Talakivka resident Valentyna Zamolyna said.
Today, had an early awakening — by the familiar sound of shelling. Her house was hit by shrapnel multiple times. At this point, she can tell, by the sound alone, the types of weapons used, and how far away they are fired.
“…oh, don’t be startled! Why are you getting all jumpy? That’s just… that’s nothing, just ‘dust.’ We had some people from the city just visiting their dacha here, and you could hear automatic weapons being fired, and they just dropped on the ground with their hands over their heads like this. And I’m like, ‘What on Earth are you doing?’ And they say, ‘There’s gunfire.’
‘But that’s just assault rifles’
They just turned around and… I’m like ‘Where are going?’
‘We’re going home!’,” Zamolina said.
We’re on the outskists of the village Talakivka. It seems, every house here has been hit at some point. Two years ago, this residential area was directly hit by heavy caliber fire. The gas supply infrastructure was damaged in several places, the road was covered in rubble.
“This is where the shell hit. Right by the gas pipe. There was a fire. You can also see the damage on the house,” Head of Talakivka village Viacheslav Salgalov said.
Talakivka used to be over 4,000 in population. When Russia’s undeclared war reached this village, people began fleeing their homes. Maryna and her family left after a Russian missile landed in their yard.
“That’s when we suffered some damage. A lot of damage… from Grad missiles,” she said
They lived away from home for more than five years and now they’re back.
“We missed this place so much. We returned just a month ago. We want to start over,” she added.
And this part of the village is considered a ‘dead zone’ where people don’t return. These houses are way too close to hostilities; they’re in the firing line.
“Many people here left for good. You can see, these houses are not getting rebuilt, as there’s no guarantee that all that investment will not be for nothing and that those houses won’t get hit again.
“This road leads to Kominternove and the occupied territory. We’re about 4 or 5 kilometers from the fighting positions,” Salgalov said.
Out of three and a half thousand hectares of farm land in this area, only about 500 are used. Working in this fields is just too dangerous.
“There’s fighting over there, so you just… can’t,” he said.
But, somehow, life goes on. Stores are open, there’s a post office, children go to school and kindergartens.
“In 2014 we were forced to remodel our basement into a bomb shelter, to which we could evacuate with the children in case of heavy shelling close-by. So that every child would know where to go in that case,” Tetiana Troshenkova, Head of the Talakivka kindergarten, said.
The shelter has a stock of drinking water, food, there are beds for children and even toys. The school windows were reinforced with special protective film on both sides, so that a blast wave wouldn’t send shards of glass flying.
When we visited the Talakivka kindergarten, children were learning Ukrainian songs and dances. This was a relatively peaceful day in the front line village.