Res­cue from Avdiyivka: Res­i­dent talks about her evac­u­a­tion un­der shelling

Kyiv Post - - National - BY OKSANA GRYTSENKO [email protected] Kyiv Post | By Yu­liana Ro­manyshyn Sources: Google Maps, Min­istry of De­fence,, Kyiv Post

Dur­ing nearly three years of war, Olena Po­lian­ska never left her spa­cious house in Avdiyivka, where she lived with her daugh­ter Rita, 13, just one kilo­me­ter from the front line.

But the 58-year-old’s for­bear­ance fi­nally gave out on Jan. 31. She asked for evac­u­a­tion af­ter spend­ing three days mostly in the base­ment of her house, as the im­pacts of Grad rockets tore dozens of ugly black gouges in the snow-cov­ered field in front of her house.

The house shook from the im­pact, its doors and win­dows blasted open by the shock­waves.

“We didn’t sleep for three nights, that’s why we left,” Po­lian­ska said. “The bombs were fall­ing down very close, and it was day and night with­out end.” But Po­lian­ska was lucky. De­spite hav­ing a poor phone con­nec­tion, she man­aged to get through to vol­un­teer Olena Roz­vadovska, who ar­ranged for an ar­mored mil­i­tary car to bring the woman and her daugh­ter out of the most dan­ger­ous area of Old Avdiyivka, where she lived, to the city cen­ter.

Pass­ing by houses in the area, Roz­vadovska saw smoke from re­cent shell im­pacts ris­ing above some of the roofs.

The mas­sive shelling of Avdiyivka, a Donetsk Oblast city of 22,000 peo­ples some 700 kilo­me­ters south­east of Kyiv and 14 kilo­me­ters from the sep­a­ratist strong­hold of Donetsk, started early on Jan. 29.

The Rus­sian-backed troops first tried to push the Ukrainian army away from de­fen­sive po­si­tions on a key high­way next to the city. oc­cu­pied ter­ri­tory (as of Feb.1) con­cen­tra­tion of forces The clashes es­ca­lated into mas­sive ex­changes of ar­tillery fire from both sides, with Grad rockets and tanks be­ing used.

The clashes were the first ma­jor es­ca­la­tion of the Rus­sian-in­sti­gated war in east­ern Ukraine this year, and oc­curred just months af­ter an­other flare-up of fight­ing near the city of Svit­lo­darsk, some 60 kilo­me­ters to the north­east of Avdiyivka.

In its most re­cent re­ports, mon­i­tors from the OSCE Spe­cial Mon­i­tor­ing Mis­sion to Ukraine said the num­ber of ex­plo­sions on Jan. 31 was “the high­est yet recorded.” In Avdiyivka alone, on Jan. 31 they counted 200 ex­plo­sions caused by mul­ti­ple launch rocket sys­tems.

One woman was killed early on Feb. 1 and eight civil­ians were wounded by shelling in the pe­riod of Jan. 29 to Feb. 2, the Donetsk Oblast Na­tional Po­lice re­ported. Dozens of houses were dam­aged. The shelling also downed power lines, leav­ing the city with­out elec­tric­ity, and dis­rupted the city’s wa­ter and heat­ing sup­plies, with tem­per­a­tures out­side dipping at one point to around –18 de­grees Cel­sius.

The au­thor­i­ties set up heat­ing tents, where res­i­dents could heat up and get free tea, bread, and buck­wheat por­ridge, and also charge their mo­bile phones. di­rec­tion of Rus­sian-backed forces im­pact of shell or rocket

Po­lian­ska spent some time in one of th­ese tents be­fore vol­un­teers helped to find a mini­van to bring her and her daugh­ter to the city of Slo­viansk, along a road pocked by fresh shell craters. She ar­rived in Slo­viansk at dusk and was hosted in a lo­cal cen­ter for in­ter­nally dis­placed peo­ple.

“Prob­a­bly the best thing af­ter this crazy day un­der fire by Grads is the fact that I re­mained alive,” said Roz­vadovska, the vol­un­teer, sum­ming up the trip.

As of Feb. 2, 175 peo­ple, in­clud­ing 94 chil­dren, had been evac­u­ated from Avdiyivka, the State Emer­gency Ser­vice re­ported.

But most res­i­dents are hes­i­tant to leave the city, fear­ing to lose their houses and jobs at the Avdiyivka coke plant, the en­ter­prise, be­long­ing to Ukraine’s rich­est oli­garch Ri­nat Akhme­tov, that is the lifeblood of the city econ­omy.

Avdiyivka, which was freed from oc­cu­pa­tion by Rus­sian-backed sep­a­ratists in late July 2014, has been a hotspot of fight­ing sev­eral times dur­ing the war.

Many lo­cals had to leave the em­bat­tled city in 2014 and 2015, but later re­turned and re­paired their houses, hop­ing the worst part of the war was over. “Peo­ple have just come back and re­paired their flats and here we go again,” Po­lian­ska said.

Po­lian­ska, who also used to work at the lo­cal coke plant but who in re­cent years was largely home­bound due to a dis­abil­ity caused by a heart dis­ease, said she had re­paired the roof and win­dows of her house af­ter a mas­sive bar­rage of shells hit her street in late May.

Those who live in Old Avdiyivka, the part of the city lo­cated clos­est to the front­line, don’t want to leave it, and their pets, cat­tle, and gar­dens.

“Every­body has dogs and cats as a must,” Po­lian­ska said. “Plus peo­ple have cows, goats, rab­bits, chicken, and ducks.” She added that her god­son had promised to look af­ter her own cat and dog, and keep her house heated.

A cease-fire that was an­nounced on Feb. 1 al­lowed the emer­gency work­ers to start re­pair work. But as of Feb. 2, re­newed shelling was still pre­vent­ing re­pair elec­tri­cians from fix­ing downed power trans­mis­sion lines, Donetsk Oblast Gover­nor Pavlo Zhe­brivsky re­ported on his Face­book page.

“If it gets at least a lit­tle bit bet­ter, we will def­i­nitely go back,” Polin­ska said. But while the fight­ing con­tin­ues, she will try to ar­range for her daugh­ter Rita to go to school in Slo­viansk, and re­main where she is – away from the fight­ing, away from Avdiyivka.

Avdiyivka is 14 kilo­me­ters from Donetsk, the sep­a­ratist strong­hold. At least eight Ukrainian sol­diers and one civil­ian have been killed in fight­ing since Jan. 29. Rus­sia oc­cu­pies Crimea and part of the Don­bas (in red).

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