Notes from Artemivs’k

Who knows me is awared that I am always full of stuffs to do: exams, conventions, schools, programs, events and so on…
It’s because I haven’t spoken about my experience in Artemivsk’ yet.

I went there with three other people and we became “a team” during that week: we renamed ourselves Shrek, Fiona, Gingerbread Man and Donkey.
No, I wasn’t Fiona XD !

The boss of the expedition was Donkey….oh, sorry, Fabio.
He’s the leader of an italian-ukrainian association called “Italia-Ucraina Maidan”.
He is so funny, but it’s also well informed and prepared, so he is able to speak with politicians, religious autorities or a middle class ukrainians without doing stupid cultural, historical or behavioral mistakes.
I met him the first time in November, when I had started to think about my master’s thesis in Cultural Anthropology.
The week before the mission in Artemivs’k he was at a conference where was attacked by pro-Russia Italians and accused to be a “fascists’ minion”. He continued to narrate to the others the previously missions…even under such a rain of insults. It was in that moment that I’ve decided to follow him in the ATO region.

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Shrek was our translator. Слава Богу, he was with us.
In Italy he’s “just” a worker in a chemical factory, in Ukraine he becomes a great words’ mage.
He said to me a lot of time: “Oh, I am not a real translator, there are too much responsibilities for me!”, but ever if under pressure he had done his work.

The journalist was called Fiona also because we three had to re-grab him from the difficult situations where he put himself. However he is a “pen” of one of the biggest newspapers in Italy. He followed us to realize an article on this expedition, acting like our “shadow”…and he had worked hard trying to comprehend the ukrainian “way-to-be” in just one week.

And I was the Gingerbread Man 🙂
I was happy to take this role, because of my “participant observation”. As a “wanna-be” anthropologist, it’s important to stay behind and see what happens, but moreover it’s mandatory to seem as a child, saying that you don’t know the situation and let the participants act in front of you explaining their intentions.

We arrived in Artemivs’k by train, coming from Kiev. We passed through the Dnipropetrovsk’s and Luhansk’s станції and it was really interesting seeing how the population is trying to define a visual border: they have painted all the things that they can do in yellow and blue, the colors of the ukrainian flag. The bus stops were yellow-blue, the fences were yellow-blue, the doors were yellow-blue and even the curtains…
But Artemivs’k is the last frontier before the war, before the “no man’s land”, so here also the government interfered to certificate that:

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Just comprehensible.

Artemivs’k was a tourist place.
Located on the banks of the Bahmut river, famous for its wine and well-known for its perfect weather, it’s strange to see this city not crowded of families that look for relax.
Actually the center is quite empty. There are children that run in the square under the cozy control of their бабусі, there are some mothers that go to the ринок to buy flour and meat…but not many and however there aren’t boys and girl from 20 to 30: they got away, leaving all their parent and belongings behind.

In order to help this and other places, the Association sent 14 tons of humanitarian aid: wears, beds, sheets, food and medicines…
We met soldiers, children of the orphanage, refugees and so on.
After every single day there, I cried in my room, overwhelmed by the consciousness of what can happen to all of them.
The ruins of a barrack in the central street, the soldiers that enter in a supermarket just to eat something, the roads pierced and destroyed by the passage of tanks…all remember the possibility of a raid of separatists.

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The military camp.
We arrived there at the sunset, after the soldiers’ training and during their dinner hour.
The captain showed us the kitchen, the tents, their rusty showers and a little chapel where othodoxes, greek-catholics and catholics can pray together.
They need also simple things, like sheets, because the government is economically in trouble, so it’s difficult to receive a material support from it.

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Here you can see a class of the orphanage.
It’s not a “real” orphanage, because all the kids have parents, but they can’t provide a good education and a normal level of subsistence.
Some of them are soldiers’ kids that would like to stay nearby their family.
The director told us that is really delicate to speak about war with these children, but it is impossible to avoid this topic, also because they need to be trained to follow instructions in case of an attack.

However…I don’t see the hour to return back to Artemivs’k.
I would like to meet again Tanya and Alex, the kids and the soldiers. I would like to know that they are well and safe.

I remember a day when we walked in the park nearby the river and Alex (a member of an ukrainian humanitarian association) spoke with me only in ukrainian, even if it was difficult for him because he had learned it only at school (he is a “russophone”).
He gave me the first possibility to express myself in this language, slowly and feeling comfortable.

Thank you, thank you so much.

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Me and Alex in front of Artemivs’k ратуша. The little bridge was created by him and one of his best friend, that decided to go with the separatists when the war began. Unfortunally, his friend died after some weeks.

Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime. – Hemingway

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