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Running in circles, fear, and hope: Residents of Berdyansk about life in the temporary occupation. asked several people about their life in the temporarily occupied Berdyansk. Names have been changed.

In the first days of occupation in Berdyansk

Nelia, a single mom

– Our family lives on social security payments, which, thanks to Ukraine, come directly to our bank accounts. But it is a huge problem to take the money out as cash. With the arrival of the “liberators”, my whole life turned into running in circles. I get up when it’s still dark and rush to get in the line at a bank, and all day I run from one branch to another to earn money. At best, they give out a thousand hryvnias in one place. Once, they gave me a thousand hryvnias in coins. And what choice do I have? It’s better that way than paying crazy interest for cashing the money out otherwise. Recently, a cash transfer point opened in the Russian supermarket “Mera” that overtook the grounds of our local ATB store. There they cash out the rouble at 10% interest and the hryvnia – at 15%.

Maryna, a pharmacist

– It is especially awful for the elderly. The situation with the medicine supply is terrible. People buy seemingly familiar pills made in Russia and complain they have no effect. Imported drugs from other countries have become several times more expensive. But the worst thing is that soon these expensive supplies will also run out, and only Russian drugs will remain on our shelves due to sanctions. That’s when all these lovers of the “Russian world” will have to face the music when they could die themselves because there is no necessary medication in our pharmacies anymore. 

Tatiana, a saleswoman

– It’s as if we got into some nightmare or a horror film where every day, every minute, you don’t know what to expect and what might happen. My son is not yet 17 years old, but he looks very mature: tall, pumped up – he does sports all the time. Once we went to the store together, I was shopping, and he was waiting for me on the street. I go out and see my son standing half-naked, and Russian monsters surround him from all sides with machine guns, helmets, masks, and looking for tattoos. I almost lost my senses. Now I am asking my son to stay in, but it is summer, and my child wants to be outside…

Olena, a small business owner

– Many people now say that business owners have it the easiest since they can’t get unemployed. You only need to pay the occupiers off, and then you can keep working. But none of us can be sure of anything. Today they state that if you pay them and receive a licence, allegedly, you are allowed to do your job. But no one knows what will happen tomorrow. I’ve heard that they (the occupiers) are preparing something else. Now everyone primarily works for hryvnias, but there is a rumour that soon everyone will have to open accounts in their Russian pseudo-banks.

Ihor, unemployed

– Before the war, I worked at a large enterprise branch. Our primary production and head office were in Dnipro, and, as soon as the war started, the branches in the occupied cities were closed. I lost my job. My wife worked part-time and was laid off as well. We have a little daughter. We have already used up all our savings. All our income now is an unemployment benefit from the employment centre. The first one was a little over 2,000 UAH; in the second month, we got 4,000.

Olia, a nurse

– Even though many people have left Berdyansk, the flow of patients does not decrease. Doctors say that people’s chronic diseases have probably worsened because of stress. It is not easy for medics because we have not been paid a salary for one and a half months. And some families are made up of two or more physicians. But the Ukrainian authorities promise to solve the problem and pay us. We believe in Ukraine!

Olena, a grandmother to a disabled child

– Every summer, we took our boy to the seaside, to a resort, for his health. Now bus No. 5/2, on which we travelled, does not run. You can, of course, come to the city beach or Lisky, the good thing is that the beaches are empty now, but we are afraid of the proximity of the port with explosions there and all. The waves can carry all kinds of things to the shore, too. For instance, in Odesa, a man blew himself up on a mine at the beach. And then the Russians blame it all on the Armed Forces of Ukraine. And the thought of the corpses of “orcs from Saratov” decomposing somewhere in the bay is not conducive to relaxation.

Explosions in Berdyansk port have become almost commonplace

Svitlana Yehorivna, a retiree

– My children and grandchildren left, but I flatly refused. I am still in excellent health, but I am already well over 80, and I don’t want to die far away from Berdyansk. I want to be buried at home. I am happy that my family left. This way, I’m not worried about them. I have two sons and two grown-up grandchildren. It is very dangerous here, especially for men. Every day you hear that someone has been taken away and there is no news about them. It’s scary, like under Stalin when the “black crow” took people away. I also realized that I started cursing recently. I am a teacher, so I always watch my language. Still, whenever I hear someone say, “Berdyansk is ours!” in Russian on the occupation radio, I involuntarily burst out cursing like a sailor!

Oleh, IT-worker

– To be honest, I was inclined to evacuate. Especially now, after Iryna Vereshchuk warned that the residents of the occupied territories, which is already dangerous, will be in even greater danger soon. I started looking for ways out and found several options. Even volunteer organizations take people out for free, although there is a waitlist. But most importantly, my grandparents refuse to leave. They say I should go and leave them behind because they are set on staying put. My grandfather can barely walk, and my grandmother can scarcely see. How could I leave them? So I decided to stay. Of course, I’m afraid, but my hope and faith in the Armed Forces are much stronger than my fear.