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On 26 February 2015, together with Christian Youth Center “Tema” we had an opportunity to visit the town of Avdeyevka in Donetsk oblast as well as in the nearby villages of Tonenkoye, Vodyanoye, and Pervomayskoye, which are located five to ten kilometers from the Donetsk Airport. Our purpose was to help families with children, who still remain in the warfare area risking their lives. We brought them food packages, diapers, baby food, candles, and wet wipes.
When you come close to Avdeyevka, you see fields with lots of craters from Grad rockets and shelling and in the town most apartment buildings and many private houses have been damaged after the bombardments. Local people tell us that in the beginning of February the town was under constant shelling, with people dying all the time, but the situation has been more stable in the recent 3-4 days.
Our first stop was right in the center of the town. Only remote isolated sounds of fire broke the silence from time to time. In a park, we met two teenagers aged 14-15 years old. They have not been attending school for quite a long time as it has been partially ruined with windows broken. The boys are accustomed to shelling and do not want to leave the town. Then we met a mother with two small children. We gave her food packages and a visit card of our foundation, promising to help her with what we can in case she decides to move to Zaporozhye.
In the following two hours, we visited some more families in the new part of Avdeyevka and in private houses. The self possession of these people seemed astonishing to me. The neighboring houses and apartments are ruined, there is no water supply and electricity in town, the lives of children and their parents are under threat all the time, but people adamantly refuse to move to safer locations. Their usual response is: “Where should we go? Plus, we have no money!” At the same time, volunteers offered to evacuate people and took local families free of charge from here when the shelling was particularly strong in the beginning of February 2015.
We found another amazing family with four (!) children in an almost deserted village of Tonenkoye. The Grad rockets hit their vegetable garden and ruined the shed, there is no electricity in the village, but there is a good basement, where children hide with their parents and grandmother. The youngest girl, four-year-old Anya, is smiling, telling that “when it starts going bang, we go to the basement and it does not bang anymore.” Those children do not realize the severity of the situation, for many of them it is an adventure or something like a thunderstorm.
We saw a girl of about ten years old in the village of Vodyanoye, which is just 2-3 km from the well-known village of Peski, where there was a tough warfare. The locals staying here say that when there is no shelling, this girl is running along the streets and “makes everybody laugh”. By the way, when we were talking to families, they told that after three days of silence the intensive cannonade started around the airport again, with mortars, heavy guns and machine guns shooting, but locals were not frightened. “That’s nothing – it used to be much worse!”
Despite of the courage and being accustomed to dangers, lives of children living in this area are under threat daily. Why does the state not care about the evacuation of children from conflict areas? It is clear that families are not willing to leave their homes having no guarantees that they will be provided with shelter and food at the new place. Such families should be given guarantees that they will have a roof over their heads and support, psychologists should come to such areas and talk to parents so that families with children may be evacuated. Otherwise, the number of victims among children will further increase.
Everyone is able to help families residing in front-line villages. You can bring food products, such as canned food, including meat, baby formula, cereals, diapers, and wet wipes to the office of the Happy Child Foundation at the address 4 Gryaznova St., apt. 36, Zaporozhye on workdays from 10 to 18.
You can also make a donation from any country (as usually full reports on expenses will be provided)
If you have ideas concerning the accommodation for displaced families with children, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or call +38 066 513 34 35
Thank you in advance!