Fear of the unknown in the Ukrainian war zone – TV channels

A soldier from the Ukrainian military forces walks in the town of Avdiivka on the front line with Russian-backed separatists, February 9, 2022. (Photo by Will VASSILOPOULOS / AFP)

Maria Shanovska, a third-grade student, wonders what toy to put in her emergency bug-out bag if Russian forces massed on the border invade her war-torn town in eastern Ukraine.

“A family photo, my favorite toy and food so I don’t go hungry,” she tells her mother Natalia as they debate what they would need most if their traumatized country plunged into even greater war. bloody.

Shanovska’s town of Krasnogorivka is on government territory near the impoverished outskirts of the Russian-backed separatist stronghold, Donetsk.

Their building has been without heat since a 2014 pro-EU revolution prompted the Kremlin to annex Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and then support armed insurgents in the industrial southeast of the former Soviet state.

Natalia knows the pains of war and personal losses. His building has been hit four times by shells and his apartment relies on the whims of a makeshift wood stove.

“We live in constant fear,” says the mother of six. “Our neighbor was injured by shrapnel three months ago.”

Yet even the 15,000 remaining residents of the frontline city – familiar with life on the bare subsistence – are now more frightened than ever by the prospects of what might happen next.

More than 100,000 Russian troops have massed near Ukraine’s borders in what Washington warns could be the precursor to an all-out invasion aimed at reversing Kiev’s steady westward drift.

“Everyone is scared, and we are scared,” the 45-year-old said.

– Shaking hands –

Washington has taken the lead in issuing ominous warnings about the prospects of a Russian offensive that could quickly kill tens of thousands of civilians in what would be Europe’s worst conflict since World War II.

The drumbeats of war echo loudly through the snowy streets of Krasnogorivka.

Schools and hospitals in the city have started preparing bomb shelters and getting water supplies for the first time in years.

Local hospital chief Sergiy Fedenko checks electrical wiring in a basement used to house civilians and medical personnel during the hottest months of the First Battle of Donetsk in 2014.

“If they start bombing, we can move the beds here,” said the 50-year-old. “We can accommodate 280 people in the basement.

But a nurse who declined to give her full name for fear of being reprimanded for her criticism said moving critically ill patients to bomb shelters was dangerous.

“People with Covid-19 who are intubated and need oxygen cannot be moved,” she said.

Patient Lyudmila Isaychenko seems resigned to her fate. The 73-year-old was hospitalized with a neurological condition and says she won’t be intimidated into hiding in a basement if the shells start to fall.

“If they start shooting, I will lie here,” Isaychenko said. “Whatever will be, will be. But this fear never goes away. My hands are still shaking. When someone opens a bottle, I think someone shoots.

– Sudden silence –

Student Ilya Zhelnovatskiy’s bomb shelter is hidden under the floor panels of his simple kitchen.

“It saved our lives several times,” he says.

But his family are now planning to evacuate should the feared Russian offensive ever begin before the frozen ground thaws in the spring.

“If an all-out war breaks out, the first thing to do is take your passport and your money and leave,” he says. “But then we’ll be back.”

Krasnogorivka remained eerily silent for weeks.

Small-scale battles that have escalated into a conflict that the UN estimates has claimed more than 14,000 lives have died down across much of the southeast – a sudden silence that scares many as it is difficult to explain.

Shanovska doesn’t see the lull as good news and seems resigned to spending more days sheltering in a dark basement with her children.

“There is no light or water there and there is hardly any place to sit down,” she says. “Living here is so difficult. Of course, I am distressed.

Karl M. Bailey