“Mama, are they robots?” The children of Donbass under artillery and sniper fire: Part Two

Civilians take charge of the needful tasks

Donbass: Children live here
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Kristina Melnikova in EADaily

[Read part one here]

The war situation is almost always consistently tense. The armed Forces of Ukraine, shelling the village from the “cliffs”, with grenade launchers, mortars, and infantry fighting vehicles, hammer residential buildings. Even the eastern part of the village, which is considered safer, suffers. A few months ago, as Chaly related, a pregnant woman almost died, who managed to jump out a few seconds before it got there. But, despite everything, the village continues to live and recover.

During the war, 20 people have been killed in Aleksandrovka, and this is relatively few, given the heavy shelling that the village has undergone. A lot of people, as Chaly notes, die from stress, from exacerbation of chronic diseases after heavy bombardment:- Every shelling we have here someone dies due to stress – about 8 people per month. We are in a lowland and, like a big ear, we hear everything. And not all survive the booms. We had a case when the heart of even a young man could not stand it.

Before the war, Chaly, who now almost knows every resident of the village by name, headed one of the coal departments of a large enterprise. With the outbreak of hostilities, he began to actively help the militia.
– Just at that time there were many dead and wounded in Slavyansk, we helped, collected necessary help with their own money by the carload, accepted refugees, evacuated people. And when the first shells covered Aleksandrovka (it was July 13, 2014, when the full package of “Grad” flew from the Ukrainian side) and there was the first major exodus of people, we were already engaged in helping and transporting the wounded, which were many then, Chaly recalls.


Local authorities at this time fled, and the villagers were abandoned, the work of the police and public services was paralyzed.-

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We, as the most western point, were cut off from the outside world, we had a one-road lifeline, which connected the village of Aleksandrovka and the Tikhiy subdistrict. It was bombarded with mortars because high voltage lines passed along it, which Ukraine tried to damage. We had an initiative group of 12 people, we rallied and began to help people with what we could. Of the 12 people in our group, seven have survived. One family died altogether. Then I served in the ranks of the militia, which were in the Maryinsky district, dealing with life’s necessities, distributed free bread, flour, sugar, cereals. Shops were not open then, and people had nothing to eat, we saw to it house by house that no one went hungry. So you can’t explain what we were doing all at once, we did so much work then, we were there serving as police, doctors, electricians, and plumbers, and dealing even with the birth at night. When in ’15 there was a question about the appointment of the head of the administration, they decided to choose me. I thought that I would run for a year until the war was over, but for four years I’ve worked at this place. We are doing the same thing, but not under the military flag – we are restoring a peaceful life, giving all possible help to people, – said Konstantin Chaly.

Now for him three problematic issues are most important – the restoration of housing, agriculture and jobs.- The restoration is not yet envisaged due to the fact that we are a front-line region, military operations are constantly underway, but we receive temporary material (lumber, window film) through the humanitarian line.

Konstantin Chaly
Konstantin Chaly

The kids are scared, we try to take them to the pool, to the planetarium, to the cinema, to the circus – wherever possible. One result is: a choreographic club [“circle” –tr] is based at our clubhouse. The girl Karina graduated from college and is busy with the children, kids even from Petrovka are going to study with us.

We would be able to achieve more if we had the clubhouse repaired because it is cold, there is no heat, the windows were knocked out by the “Hail” and it is possible to fully engage only in summer. And if we repair the gym, we can run more circles.

In Aleksandrovka there is a functioning church named after the holy Prince Alexander Nevsky, where Konstantin Chaly also serves as a sexton. He says that Elder Zosima, the founder of two monasteries in Ugledar, served in this temple for 10 years.“Now the church is run by his spiritual child, Archpriest Vladimir, although he is a young priest, but not a single liturgy, not a single Sunday was missed by him during the war even in its most terrible days. Services are long, monastic, start at nine, finish at one o’clock – at two, – says Chaly.

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