Many residents of this city of 100,000 people, separated from Severodonetsk by the Donets River, have fled. All that remains are the elderly, the people who take care of them or those who cannot afford to go elsewhere.
“Every day, there are bombings, every day something burns,” said Yuri Krassnikov, retired, sitting on a bench in a neighborhood with many damaged buildings and charred houses. Not far from there, the building of a technical school is in the grip of a violent fire – flames escape from windows and large clouds of black smoke.
“There is no one to help me,” said the 70-year-old man, in a threadbare blue T-shirt, his cane by his side. “I tried to go see the municipal authorities, but there is no one, everyone has cleared out. They have abandoned the population! (…) Where will I go at 70?”
Serguiï Lipko, him, makes visit his damaged house, in a district very close to the Donets river, whereas explosions resound in the surroundings. In the bedroom, a rocket landed in the middle of the bed, without exploding.
He has no intention of leaving either, despite the slow advance of Russian forces which now almost totally encircle Lyssytchansk and Severodonetsk, two cities hit hard by deindustrialization in recent years.
Their capture would allow Russian forces to claim control of the entire Lugansk region, which together with Donetsk makes up Donbass.
“In our country, we have to work all our life to have a roof. That’s why we won’t go somewhere where we don’t have one,” he says. “There are a lot of people in our town who haven’t left because they’ve worked their whole lives to get an apartment.”
Ivan Sossnine, 19, stayed behind to take care of his disabled grandmother.
“This is our home. We don’t know anything else, we grew up here. Where would we go? And we don’t have enough money to stay long elsewhere.”
Yet Vadim Chvets, 62, standing in front of a grocery store with half-empty shelves, is trying to keep his spirits up.
Despite everything, he managed to do his vegetable garden this season, using water from a lake, the water distribution network no longer working. “I have no idea what will happen tomorrow. I don’t know how we will live. But naturally we hope for the best,” he said.