What is the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and why locals do not trust it?
The international community gets involved in every war, monitoring if the international law and possibly some other agreements are observed. Already at the beginning of the war in March 2014, special monitoring mission of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe started to operate in the Ukraine. Its task is to objectively monitor the situation and give reports. However, the reports have been more or less the same for the past six years. Sometimes, there is less gunfire, sometimes more, but it certainly continues on all the time. According to the armistice anchored in the Minsk II Protocol from the spring 2015, some types of weapons are not allowed to be used, still, the fire from these weapons continues on everyday basis.
The locals do not trust the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe much. There is not a single Ukrainian citizen among the observers, although there are dozens of citizens of Russian Federation, i.e. the state that at least adds fuel to the conflict in the Eastern Ukraine. The mission thus becomes a white hope in a geopolitical fight. The white Toyotas of the observers with their blue and white waving flags became part of the scenery for the locals, but it seems that they are unable to prevent the fire at nights.
Unlike this lady, many others did not return home and they started a new life in other parts of the country. They have become inner refugees. How many of them are there and what do they struggle with?
Around 1.8 million people have fled the areas with heavy fighting since 2014. 400 000 headed for Russia and remaining almost 1.5 million stayed in the Ukraine. They have become so called inner refugees.
The UNHCR carries an extensive statistics of the people who decided to flee the war. The statistic shows that an overwhelming majority of pensioners might have left their homes, however they stayed in neighbouring villages or towns where they could feel at least a bit at home. The young people left for big cities, most often Kiev. These were often active people who did not have problems startingin the new environment.
However, not everybody did well in a new place. Many did not have sufficient financial reserves to be able to afford to pay for the rent in big cities and therefore they lived in so called collective centres – in former sanatoriums and in run-down dormitories. They were helped by various humanitarian organizations.
Still, there is no place like home. Although the fire in the vicinity of their homes did not stop, it is not as dangerous as it used to be. Therefore many inner refugees returned to the front line.
Why people often do not talk to each other? And in what way Donbass differs from the rest of the country?
The war has ruined relationships between people and many families have fallen apart. Donbass used to be a region that differed from the others even earlier. Everything started in 1930s when Stalin tried to supress the local Ukrainian culture and language. Simultaneously, people from other parts of the Soviet Union started coming to the region, mostly ethnic Russians. Donbass used to have a special position within the Soviet Empire as an important coal basin and industrial area.
The Slovak reporter Tomáš Forró in his reportage book Donbass: A wedding apartment in a hotel called War writes that most of the Donbass population identify themselves primarily with their region, not the Ukraine as a state. On the top of that, the whole area is mostly Russian speaking and the locals often have close connections with Russia. After the Soviet Union fell apart, many of them felt like strangers in the new state. Moreover, some politicians spread a myth that the hard work of the miners feeds the rest of the country. In such a divided society, it was not difficult to capitalize the mutual animosity between the pro-Russian Donbass and the pro-European West of the country.