The cold winter is a challenge for people living close to the front line in eastern Ukraine, as many of them face a shortage of heating material. Looking for a firewood in the woods is hardly an option because of the possible presence of land mines and other unexploded remnants of war. While distributing wood briquettes for heating to the most vulnerable among the local population, our team in Donbas met with a man whose story demonstrates the difference which can be made in the life of local people by supplying them with simple household items.
“Last autumn, I went for firewood to forest. I was extremely careful, trying to avoid to step on anything suspicious, but there was high grass everywhere. Well, I was walking here and there collecting dry branches and then, suddenly, I heard a “click””- Mykola Ivanovych was trying to imitate this distinctive metallic sound, and everybody present in the room clearly understood that he was talking about the snap which activates a tripwire mine.
Mykola Ivanovich is 74 years old, he was born and lives in the village Pervomayske situated only one km from Pisky village which in 2015 gained notorious fame as a battle field. There was a time when Mykola’s street had turned into the main scene of armed clashes, and the civilians living there were hiding over many days in the basements of their houses. Even today, the sounds of shelling carried by the wind from the front line, testifies that that the conflict is still ongoing. Mykola Ivanovych does not leave his house very often as he is not in good health. But this day is exceptional. Having taken his regular medicine in advance, he grasps his wheelbarrow so as to arrive on time for the distribution of wooden briquettes.
“I served three years in the Soviet army based in East Germany, then returned home and got a job on the factory not far from Pisky. There we produced different kinds of military equipment, including mines”, Mykola Ivanovych continues telling about his life.
“When I heard the “click” I instantly remembered that our mines had only three seconds before detonation and the German mines had six. I throw myself to the ground and immediately heard the explosion. After that, I could not hear anything for two weeks”.
The old man could have been injured or dead, but luckily stayed unhurt after the tripwire detonation. Yet there is no need yet for people in frontline villages in Donbas to go to the forest and get exposed to the danger. The ICRC teams have delivered wooden briquettes for more than 350 households in particularly vulnerable towns and villages, such as Kominternove, Pavlopil and Pervomayske in Donetsk region, where previously people had no opportunity to get other heating material, but firewood from a forest infested by unexploded remnants of war.