Conflict journalism, Eyewitness Accounts, Genocide in Ukraine, Humanitarian Crisis, Interviews & Accounts, Ukrainian War Crimes, War reporting

The Tragedy of Uglegorsk: Exodus from the “City of the Dead”

Original: Komsomolskaya Pravda
Translated by Alya Bailey / Edited by @GBabeuf
Photo credits: Aleksandr Kots, Dmitriy Steshin

uglogorsk_head

The Militia opened a humanitarian corridor for the residents and organised the evacuation. The Ukrainian side did not want to let the civilians cross their front line.

People started leaving the town early in the morning. We ran into the first group of refugees already on Gorlovka’s outskirts. Packed cars with windows steamed on the inside and white sheets, scarves on aerials and mirrors. People had hardly any belongings with themthey escaped with only the clothes they were wearing and had filled the vehicles to the brim. Then we saw a few Urals with children in the cabs. The first transfer point is at the administrative building of one of the mines. Here, the Militia is checking ID papersa lot of Ukrainian soldiers are left in the city, hiding in basements, abandoned flats and houses. There are no delays herepassports are quickly looked at and everyone goes on to Makeevka, where the refugees are fed and dispersed to temporary accommodation.

uglogorsk_01

The city centre, so to say, is no more,” says one resident, Lyudmila Vladimirovna. “The day before yesterday it was demolished by Grads launched from Debaltsevo. What corridors? We’re escaping by ourselves. Getting out of the basements and running. We live in the outskirts, so we don’t know anything. There’s no communications. No power, nowhere to charge your phone.”

We escaped from Uglegorsk,” a man says. “There’s firing there. There’s nothing left of Uglegorsk. In our house the third floor is burnt out, the second floor is holed. And the Grads come at us from Debaltsevo at will.”

My parents remain in Groznoe village, near Uglegorsk, I don’t know how to get them out of there,” cries a woman, Valya. “Everything’s smashed. Three days we’ve lain on the floor in the flat. Then we managed to get to the basement, we crawled there. Five days we couldn’t leave, couldn’t leave the housethey were firing at us. I don’t know who it wasthey were flying the Ukrainian flag. They were running around the entrances to our blocks of flats firing their guns. Twice our house was shelled.”

Were you scared?” we ask a boy sitting on the front seat of a minibus. “No!” he shouts. The little boy seems to be shell-shocked. “I hid in the basement with mummy.”

uglogorsk_05

There are elderly people on 7 Stankevskogo Street. They’re disabled, they can’t get down from the third floor,” escaping refugees shout to us from inside a minibus. “Let Poroshenko live like we are now! Let his children endure all this!”

It is unusually quietthe soldiers confirm: the ceasefire will last till 1pm. We drive another dozen kilometres to the outskirts of Uglegorsk. All fields around the road are mined, and sappers are already at work on them, the ground studded with metal rods topped with red triangles, placed above located mines. In the middle of a minefield, in a puddle of melted snow stands an office chair—neither logic nor imagination can explain how it could have got there. At the first houses of Uglegorsk, at the obliterated railway crossing, we can see an endless queue of dejected people waiting to embark in the morning dark. People keep coming out of the town on the only open road. They are carrying bundles, bales and checkered plastic bags that have long since become a symbol of woe, poverty and suffering.

The mud is knee deep and people walk through it in expensive footwear, in fur coats dripping at the hempeople put on their most expensive things. They carry everything they can by themselves. A smartly clad little girl is carrying a cat in a cage. A poorly dressed old woman leans with every step on her bundle of belongings. Everything inside it is probably already soaked with mud and water. Trucks move towards the queue of the refugees one after another. Just before getting in, people cats away bicycles, pushchairs and trolleys. Tens of abandoned little dogs twirl around ones feet. A Militiaman who directs the loading is followed by an incredibly dirty collarless thoroughbred German shepherd. His ears move sensitively, catching every word from his new master. He seems to be very lucky in this eerie situation. People grab our hands:

Guys, from Russia? From TV? Can we tell the camera, we’re alive?”

uglogorsk_02

They surround us on all sides, conveying greetings to relatives in Moscow, Tyumen, Sevastopol, Belgorod, Novosibirsk, Kharkov, Odessa. An uncanny call from the survivors to the living. People who have escaped from a real hell share their experiences with us.

Our friends left yesterday. We were afraid because they shoot you in the back,” a young girl says.

We were sat in the basement, my brother was killed, they killed my brother!” sobs a young woman with a child. “We sat with the children in a cold basement! Six days we couldn’t come out.”

Tell Yanochka in Belgorod region, we’re alive, and tell them in Crimea too, we survived,” bellows an elderly lady. “Mister Poroshenko, sit down at the negotiating table. For the sake of our children, our elderly. We can’t suffer any more.”

This is a city of the dead! For six days we haven’t eaten or drunk, we’ve been going crazy,” another woman is almost shouting. “This is genocide against the people, it’s just killing. Six days they’ve been killing us. My hands are shaking. We tried to alarm people, called the press, told them there were children here. Only the children saved us, thanks to them. But all the same, what kind of a corridor is thatthey’re firing from that side! The Ukrainians don’t let us through their side, you can’t escape there. We’re like prisoners to them, as if we’re to blame for something.”

When the Nazis were leaving the boarding school, they drew fire on themselves,” says a man. “The town was covered with Grads from Debaltsevo. Everything was destroyed.”

uglogorsk_03

At midday the artillery starts up, throwing shells right over the crowd’s heads. Nobody ducks, nobody even looks up at the sky. They have seen more than this and have seen more than enough. A Militiaman runs up to us:

Guys, leave as fast as you can. Shells are flyingyou hear?”

Somewhere, off to a side, we can hear the sound of explosions. The railway crossing is a pre-sighted target so his concern is more than real. We can see a folded wheelchair being passed over people’s heads in the back of a truck and a very pale man with unnaturally straight legs follows. One of the Militia’s commanders, Gogi, comes for us. In June, we ran with him around the basements of Semyonovka, near Slavyansk, as a tank was hunting our group. Acquaintances like this are difficult to forget even till old age.

Gogi says that the city is enduring the worst that can be imagined in such a situation“layer cake.” Encircled soldiers from terrorist battalions rightly fearing capture, armed deserters, residual groups not intending to surrender, bitter snipers shooting at any living thing, demonstrating that the UAF has long since lost its presence in the city. Local residents also remain in hiding in basements, making it impossible just to throw a grenade into the house to mop up.

uglogorsk_04

The situation in the city is grave,” says Gogi. “Last night we evacuated three Urals full of people and more than ten cars. It’s strange that the Ukrainian troops didn’t do it. When they began their retreat, none of them bothered about the civilians. There are very many elderly, pensioners, people who can’t walk. We helped them. A hundred and fifty more people gathered in the morning. Many come here by themselves. There are still around two hundred people in the city, nobody knows exact numbers. We’re checking every building, not so much for Ukrainian soldiers as for civilian survivors. The firing is regular and quite chaotic, it’s difficult to understand what they’re aiming at. They’re firing at residential areas.”

We reach the limits of the residential district and leave the cars by a fence. Gogi commands us:

Here you have to run twenty metres, there’s a sniper in the window on the ninth floor, he’s still sitting there.”

We run, jumping over the rubbish under our feetcoils of barbed wire, fragments of cable, cords from burnt tyres. To our leftshooting and grenade explosions, the Sparta Battalion “cleaning up” the city districts. Occasional stray bullets whistle somewhere high above our heads.

There was a luxury hotel complex in the way of the DPR Army’s advance. It was partially burnt, partially destroyed. Designer wrought iron lamp-posts had been twisted into knots by a monstrous force. On the fancy rockery amongst the moss and stones there are pieces of human flesh in camouflage rags. Three Ukrainian tankists had not made the few metres to the basement. In the last few months we have seen dozens of children and old people who could not make it to the shelters as well, killed at the entrances to basements, porches or driveways… On the corpse’s breast is a notebook; the wind stirs the pagesthey are all empty. And now the city of Uglegorsk is also empty.

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Discussion

35 thoughts on “The Tragedy of Uglegorsk: Exodus from the “City of the Dead”

  1. Thanks Obama and Victoria Nuland

    Like

    Posted by jay tea | February 16, 2015, 03:56
  2. You hate the conflict in Ukraine being bombed and feel Russia is your home,then move to Russia ,I don’t want to hear you have lived there all your life. go to your commie state if you love it so much who is stopping you ? get out of Ukraine if your not happy.
    You either want freedom or you don’t.

    Like

    Posted by Eric | February 16, 2015, 04:18
    • Shut your mouth bandera scum, you and your nazi battalions will burn ih hell soon. The end is coming.

      Like

      Posted by Mike | February 16, 2015, 05:11
    • @Eric.

      You don’t want to hear they’ve lived there all their life? Copy that. Says it all.

      Here’s what I don’t want to hear: I don’t want to hear that any government that represents me has any part in supporting this in any way. That includes Canada, UK and EU.

      Just as the Ultra-Nationalists are being flattened on the battlefield at every turn the whole Ukrainian cause is being revealed as a toxic lie to more and more in the west.

      Your days are numbered Bandera.

      All your own doing.

      Liked by 2 people

      Posted by Oddlots | February 16, 2015, 05:11
    • You can’t be serious. Are you a retard?

      Like

      Posted by EROC | February 16, 2015, 05:59
      • Eric, you sound like the retard. If this can happen to these people it can happen anywhere. Damn the ba$*ar&s doing this to innocent people who just want to live a decent life. Somebody has got to throw a wrench into the cogs of a military machine that is COMPLETELY out of control!

        Like

        Posted by Stop the madness | March 4, 2015, 04:04
    • Your comment is grotesque and utterly ignorant.

      Like

      Posted by gerryhiles | February 16, 2015, 06:50
    • Wow you IGNORANT FOOL! The Communist state of the Soviet Union is no more, You are decades behind a typical ignorant septic!

      Like

      Posted by JP | February 16, 2015, 08:32
    • They’d be quite happy to go to Russia. But they’ll take their country with them.

      Liked by 1 person

      Posted by Cass | February 16, 2015, 09:14
    • Ever heard of the Geneve convention?

      Like

      Posted by Genady Karablov | February 16, 2015, 11:01
    • narrow minded moron i hope somday yore family will hit you hard you pathetic lowlife scumbag! you fuckers cant see from youre own nose son of a whore better ask her who youre rel father is subhuman waste! NOW KEEP DROOLING PICE OF SHIT!

      Like

      Posted by piss on unated satans of america | February 16, 2015, 15:12
    • To Eric: You say, “get out of Ukraine if your [sic] not happy.” When we read about people suffering from afar, there can be a tendency to want to believe they could do more to help themselves. This alleviates a sense of worry and hopelessness in our own hearts. I myself am overly guilty of this. Sometimes poeple really can do more for themselves, and just need a little push. But this kind of advice hurts if it’s too hastily given. The fact is, Ukraine legally belongs to the people who live there. They should not have to “get out”, and not all of them want to. Some loved their homes and land so much they decided to stay and risk it. Others may have had no choice, or didn’t see the crisis coming. In any event, those who should be told to “get out of Ukraine” are not its citizens, but the American officials, the US military advisors, and the NATO mercenaries fuelling this war, of whom estimated numbers are growing.

      Liked by 1 person

      Posted by kennedy applebaum | February 16, 2015, 16:07
      • Exactly, right you are! Oh the irony “get out of Ukraine then”, says the american paid mercenary. HYPOCRITES. ha! It’s so easy to identify them by their arrogance.
        And the Bandera Ukrainazi scum – who let you out of your cage? Go back to the hellhole you crawled out of.

        Like

        Posted by Ariel | March 8, 2015, 13:06
    • The last parlimentary elections the Communist Party of the Russian Federatioin polled 19.2% of the overall votes. Russia has not had a communist government since 1991 (and I doubt they will be back any time soon). Russia was just as poor as the Ukraine in 1991. The Ukraine has a crashing economy with average wages approaching 100 USD per month. The average nominal salary in Russia was $967 per month in early 2013, up from $80 in 2000.

      You should be surprised Russian speaking Ukrainians still have faith they can make there lives and homes a better place in the Ukraine.

      Do you think the EU with its farm subsidies is going to greet Ukrainian farm produce with open arms? Do you think that Spain, Greece, and Italy want migrant Ukrainian workers to send their salaries back to their families for the next twenty years? The streets of Zurich and Geneva do not want more beautiful Ukrainian prostitutes either.

      There are some very talented people in the Donbass, with all sorts of skills. The destruction of infrastructure will require replacements before the Ukrainian economy can produce any real wealth. I suggest giving some serious thought as to what to do before the country goes bankrupt. I do not see anyone here in Switzerland saying the Ukraine is a great place to invest…

      If the current conflict continues, you will find the Ukraine economically ruined, its people in abject poverty requiring food aid while sitting on the richest soil on the planet unable to plant anything because the fields are full of mines.

      The USA fracking operators have pulled out as market prices for gas and oil continue to tumble. Monsanto is being hit by more lawsuits for their genetically modified grains as the hazardous health effects are finally being published. By the time they have made reserves for the outstanding claims I will wonder if there is anything left for purchasing any acreage in the Donbas. How much would anyone want to pay for a mine field?

      Total civilian losses during WW II and German occupation in Ukraine are estimated at seven million, including over a million Jews shot and killed by the Einsatzgruppen and by their many local Ukrainian supporters in the western part of Ukraine. The German nazis considered all Slavs as “subhumans”. The crimes of the Soviets were horrible, but definitely not representative of the Russian people. Who do you think liberated Auschwitz, at -20 Celcius to take on responsability for 7500 desparate souls when they had really more important objectives? 200 Russian soldiers died in the battle for Auschwitz. Remember the logistics were such there was almost no local food. The Soviets had to bring food and supplies for their armies as well as the civilian population.

      Hitler gave the order at Leningrad to not accept any surrender; there was no place for Slavs in the new Reich. I suggest you think hard what that would have meant for the Ukraine if he had won.

      Stalin emptied the prisons and put the common criminals in the front lines. They were ruthless, brutal and effective. They were thrown into the meat grinder. They either advanced or were shot in the back by the political commissar. At the end all of Eastern Europe, from Stalingrad to Berlin was an unending mass of rubble as the Germans too had a scorched earth policy. If it were not for the outstanding Mikhail Katukov, commander of the Soviet 1rst tank army, most of the civilian population would have starved to death. Deportation to Siberia meant there was a roof over one’s head, there was wood to chop and meager rations and yes some of them died as slave laborers there, particularly the surrendered German troops. Compare that with the interned Wehrmacht troops under General Eisenhower in Rheinfelden.

      Do you really think the Soviets could afford to not repopulate the Donbass? How many millions more would have starved?

      The few extreme right Ukrainians in Western Canada are not wealthy enough to finance the reconstruction of the Ukraine. The US is not going to send very many tanks at 4.3 million USD or more each (estimated 600 required to replace current losses) nor their ammunition, so the war is basically over. The Americans certainly are not going to make money reparing tanks in Kharkov.

      In my opinion, Ukrainians have every interest to make peace.

      No EU, USA or RF can save the Ukraine alone. None have the money. The IMF lends to save french and german banks. There are practically no fresh funds whatsoever available. Time is of the essence.

      Liked by 1 person

      Posted by Gerold Rupprecht | February 17, 2015, 01:28
    • would you give up and flee your home or would you defend it?

      Like

      Posted by jay tea | February 17, 2015, 17:01
  3. Reblogged this on ElderofZyklon's Blog!.

    Like

    Posted by Cj aka Elderofzyklons Blog | February 16, 2015, 05:02
  4. Everywhere that the Empire of Chaos touches there is destruction and mayhem since 1776 when the oligarchs/landed gentry/Founding Fathers broke from London to found a Republic comprising only white male land-owners.

    Show-hosts like Tom Hartman and Larry King are delusional and I have no idea why RT employs them.

    Eric (above) is typical of a brainwashed Usan, if less sophisticated than Hartman, King and other Murkan ideologues.

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by gerryhiles | February 16, 2015, 06:32
  5. typo:
    We were sat in the basement
    -We sat in the basement

    Like

    Posted by niku | February 16, 2015, 09:44
  6. somehow, this situation resembles the caracteristic of USA invasion, reminds me at those cityes invaded by the nazis in ww2.
    its highly notisable, the criminal silence of united nations.

    Like

    Posted by gab | February 17, 2015, 06:41
  7. Without persistant vetoes of Russia UN wouldn’t be silent at all.

    Like

    Posted by NoTroll | February 17, 2015, 13:25
  8. @Eric

    After reading THIS ARTICLE!!!!, You are really without any compassionate feelings for human beings ???
    Foaming instead with cold warrior hatred and utterly stupid fascist propaganda phrases.
    Who are You? – or more precise: WHAT ARE YOU?

    Like

    Posted by peter | February 17, 2015, 18:55
  9. Reblogged this on asidewrite and commented:
    Excellent Post- Civilians are just pawns, countries just strategic stepping stones and peoples wishes simply ignored. The Photo’s are precious inroads to what the people are feeling. Again excellent post

    Like

    Posted by sedwith | February 18, 2015, 07:08
  10. Reblogged this on susannapanevin.

    Like

    Posted by susannapanevin | March 15, 2015, 21:09

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