In Krasnohorivka, the elderberry blooms smell like ashes…

By Hennadiy Novikov, Emmanuel Association PR Service
06.05.2015
Translated by Helen Mironova Arends and edited by Voices of Ukraine

No one expected us in Krasnohorivka [40 minutes west of Donetsk city in Donetsk Oblast]. No one thought it possible that after twelve hours of heavy shelling and artillery fire anyone would be able to make it through to this place. We hardly believed it ourselves. It was clear to us that the military would refuse us entry to this place, rife with danger. There were enough videos online to prove to us that slipping into town would be near impossible. The hospital is on fire. The school is on fire. Private homes are on fire. High rise building walls are gaping with holes from the shelling…

I don’t know exactly by what power, prayers, or words Halyna Kucher pursuaded the military that we must be allowed to go through. But she did it! She convinced them! Once in a while I heard fragments of her appeals,”Our friends are there….The old folks… the children….No one is answering their phones…. No news from them online….We have bread, we are bringing medicine….”

I do understand that the soldiers are not willing to put volunteers’ lives at risk. They explain in plain language what they think our skulls contain instead of brains, then they turn away. But among them, different people can be found. Our caravan consisting of two large vans stuffed with groceries was eventually let through and escorted to our destination. We had to use different roads from those we were used to from our previous travels: it’s impossible to drive through Maryinka right now, having just recently been a witness to fierce battles. We had to pick our way through a different route…Fragments of broken asphalt…Unpaved gravel… Narrow country roads, known only to the locals… A few times we had to stop to make sure we hadn’t lost our way. Reeds, nearly dry ponds…. Deserted houses on the outskirts…. Then here it is, the town which humanitarian  “Emmanuel” Association representatives visit a few times each month for the past year or so. The war gave us many friends here, who are now closer than a brother…. We are very eager to see them… To see them alive….

It’s quiet. It’s hot. No fire can be seen, but the air is rife with the smell of burning. Only a few people can be seen out on the streets. There is nobody waiting in the square by the church. Our vehicles stopped at the broad steps of the church building while it occurred to us that people are hesitant to take a risk and come out of hiding. They are probably still in their homes, staying close to their cellars, just in case. Then, the door opens… We hugged like we haven’t hugged before. Our embrace was not the same as it was a month or two ago… Not even the same as it was in February, when citizens of Krasnohorivka suffered greatly when electricity and heat were scarce. You could tell everyone wanted to hold on to you a second longer, hold you a little tighter. They smile, utter words, pound you on your back, but you can tell, this meeting is something precious, something not to be taken for granted. Nobody actually said it at first, you just knew, you could read it in their eyes, saying, “Thank you…Thank you that you came….Not just because you brought us bread, medicine…Thank you simply for coming to us…. Especially today… Right now… When fear weighs heavy as a cement block…. They had to pour it all out… Had to share all that held their hearts in a vise… From all directions, we heard, “Everything roared here… Thundered…Trembled and shook… Five story buildings jumped into the air…” “Imagine, I was running in the street, while the next street over was exploding with GRADS, as if chasing me…. Kids were darting around while everything was exploding around them, looking for their parents…. The ER burned down…We spent all day in the cellar, couldn’t show our nose outside…We’ve never experienced anything like this before.”

It will take more than one day for them to tell it all. It will take years. They will see it in many nightmares, waking them from their sleep….Who can possibly forget such terror, such horror!? But now we must unload our vans, distribute the groceries, as the soldiers are hurrying us up. We arrive at the deserted store that has long become a distribution center for Christian humanitarian aid. It is highly unusual to see no one waiting. We were used to being greeted by hundreds here.

We hope that bread will be distributed later by our local contacts so we start unloading… But then… we see two men here… an elderly gentleman hurrying through a small park…over by the road someone slammed on the brakes to see what’s going on… All of a sudden people started appearing out of nowhere… Some women showed up and immediately burst into tears. Firmly, Halyna tells us we are to stop unloading, that we will distribute the bread right out in the streets. She tells us to go to the areas most harmed by the shelling. To walk along the highrise buildings, to call out, distribute bread, talk to the people, hug them, hold them…. A week ago, we would have distributed 1,500 loaves of bread in a matter of half an hour. This time, it took several hours. Several hours I don’t care to remember, several hours I will never forget….Elderly… women… children…A funeral procession leaving the cemetery having buried a man killed by fragments just yesterday… Burned out homes…Smoke still rising from the ashes…Charred chimneys standing as the only reminder of the roof that was still there yesterday…. A man pushing a wheelbarrow with chunks of concrete that used to be his home…A three-legged dog… Auntie Vera, whose memories of losing her son to a similar shelling last year, right here in Krasnohorivka, his life ended by shrapnel, were triggered and stirred by the recent shelling… We were walking the streets surrounded by big fluffy white blooms of elderberries. Do you know what they smell like? Lean down, smell them. Maybe your elderberries have a strong sweet aroma. In Krasnohorivka, elderberry blooms smell like…. ashes….

Do not let yourself forget about this.

Do not let yourself forget that in Ukraine artillery is still firing and people are still dying. Do not let yourself forget how in Ukrainian cellars kids are crying, screaming with fear, their faces buried in their mothers’ bellies. Do net let yourself forget that someone somewhere right now needs you to care, to show human mercy, to share a loaf of bread, a cup of oil, a handful of grain…

And do not grow weary of praying that this war will finally come to an end.

Source: Serhiy Mirniy FB

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