A letter from occupied Donbass

A letter from occupied Donbass: Conversation with a businessman/separatist a year after.

In the summer of 2014 I had the opportunity to chat with a number of people who were supporters of the “DNR.”

At that time the prevailing attitude toward the “DNR” was one of “discovery and learning” and it was possible to have open disagreements about the direction our region should choose and what kind of future we could expect. Worth reading story by Jerry Toms, resident of Makiivka radiosvoboda.

Now, a year later, most of the former separatists have become members of a militia. The will and ability to think critically has been abandoned and all hopes of doing something independently have been dashed.

A large number of the separatists/militia are dead.

Today I would like to share a conversation I had with a man who did not and still has not taken up arms but, as he did initially, he still openly supports the “DNR.”

He could be regarded as one who in one way or another finances terrorism since as a successful businessman he has repeatedly helped the “militia” with money. In contrast to our former conversation this time he was the one who initiated it, by posing an unexpected question. I want to share the conversation we had the other day, and I sincerely believe that conversations like this reflect the actual situation far better than any statistics presented by the authorities. Even though we felt somewhat awkward and strained as we talked, nevertheless we attempted to build a bridge of understanding that has eluded us for over a year.

“So tell me, when will we see an end to all this? How much longer will all this nonsense keep going?”

“What nonsense are you talking about?”

“All those ‘DNRs’ and ‘LNRs,’ the UKROPs, the fascists – how much longer do we have to deal with all that?”

“Honestly, I never expected to hear something like this from you. And when you voted for autonomy for the ‘DNR’ in the referendum, how did you imagine it would play out?”

“Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t know. I didn’t think it would be like this. I’ll tell you something else: half of the people who yelled, ‘Russia, we want you!’ truly believed that Russia would come and take over, just like they did in Crimea. But even back then I said, wake up, people, no one is coming to take over.”

“I really don’t understand what it is you wanted.”

“I was angry. My vote in the referendum was a voice against the Maidan, it wasn’t a vote for the ‘DNR.’ I thought we would be offered an alternative to all those ‘Right Sectors’ and the Kyiv revolutionaries, the Bandera-ites, but instead we got control booths, barbed wire, the absence of any kind of struggle for the hoi polloi, plus I’m forced to submit reports to the tax bureau once a month, as opposed to what was required before, once a year. We have no passports, no normal documents, no diplomas. Food prices are what they are in Moscow. And nobody complains. But this cannot go on forever?”

“You’re right, but according to me, you’re the last person who should care – your business hasn’t suffered any loss, and your ties to Russia and the deficits the ‘republic’ is going through are a guarantee of profits for you.”

“But it’s not just about money. I am saddened that this swamp the ‘republic’ has become is what the ‘founders’ wanted. Every day Zakharchenko spews nonsense about ‘the fascists’ though he lives in a mansion and his guys ‘conduct business affairs.’ Regular blokes are losing their arms and legs in the battles against government forces and those guys lounge around in restaurants all night and then all day tell me about some kind of ‘Russian world.'”

“So then you wouldn’t mind if the Ukrainian armed forces came here and re-established a Ukrainian government here?”

“No, no, I’m against that, of course. I hate all those who climbed to the top by spilling the blood of regular people, who have caused the fall of the value of the UAH to 23 USD, who have brought the economy to collapse and then want to teach me how to do things, Yatseniuk, Poroshenko, and all the rest. They’re all like Zakharchenko, except that they’re more sophisticated and their suits are more expensive while the rest of the people are dressed in plain clothes. Somehow we are incapable of voting in regular people – I at least have the strength to admit it, but in Kyiv all they ever talk about is ‘victory.’ And if one day in Donetsk we should see people in balaclavas carrying torches and portraits of Bandera I would rather see the local bums and their ‘Russian world.'”

“Do you really  believe that it could be like that here, too? The most that would happen is several streets would be renamed and the statue of Lenin would be taken down. Nobody in Donetsk would try to impose ultra nationalism on the people here. Things would simply return to the way they were, with genuine pensions and diplomas, instead of documents printed with a printer.”

“I tell you, they hate us, they have always hated us, long before the war. Take you, for example, if you were to go to Kyiv right now, with a ‘permit of residence’ you would be viewed as a nonperson, and no one would care about you. They’re all yelling that the Donbas is Yanukovich, albeit a dethroned Yanukovich. That the Donbas is a photocopy of his reign. And they ‘thank’ us for Yanukovich. But there are only 7 million people in the Donbas, while all of Ukraine is 47 million people, so how could we have voted him in? Don’t they know how to tally numbers? I didn’t vote for that moron, but OK. You should simply admit that his election was falsified, we hadn’t voted him in. People from Odesa and Crimea and Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk voted for him, and even people from Kyiv, and yet we are the ones everyone hates.”

“OK. But still I don’t understand: if you don’t agree with the Maidan and the revolution and think that the current government came to power illegally, spilling the blood of plain people, then why are you supporting the same stuff here, even though here everything has been turned upside down with other flags, other slogans, other objectives and ideas, but the authorities of the  ‘DNR’ are just as illegitimate, and on top of everything, they took power by force?”

“You see, we just can’t seem to agree. But at least we aren’t spitting in each other’s faces or cutting each other’s throats. The things Strelkov did in Sloviansk were illegal, I agree. But for me the Maidan was equally illegal. When you say that in Kyiv they laugh at you and don’t want to listen. We had the ‘Heavenly Hundred’ they say, people died for an idea, etc. And we have ‘heavenly thousands!’ So what? The more corpses you have, the more right you are, is that it? I don’t know. We need something completely different in principle, a new way of thinking, new concepts, ideas – without the Grad missiles and without the reproaches and accusations from all sides.”

EMPR, O. R. contributed to this  publication

Original article in Russian is available on radiosvoboda.org

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