Tetyana is mostly worried about her cows and pigs. “I invested everything in them. All my labor went to the farm,” said this 47-year-old woman in front of her fold-out table, on which are presented pieces of meat and pots of fresh cream.

A few elderly women and closed-eyed men exchange scary stories of their sleepless nights and the lurking death.

“It struck me how much older everyone looks compared to last week,” breathes Tetyana, observing her acquaintances, on the occasion of a lull in the fighting taking place all around Solar.

“It’s because of fear. You can see it in their eyes,” she adds.

A new deep trench dug south of Soledar illustrates local fears. The Russian forces advanced to the gates of this mining center, trying to take the Ukrainian troops in a pincer movement.

The road to the northeast, under intermittent Russian control, leads to two besieged industrial towns almost deserted by their inhabitants, but which the forces of kyiv refuse to abandon.

The nearby town of Bakhmout saw the Russians advance up to three kilometers from its eastern boundary.

And the way to the northwest has been cut off by a breakthrough by forces from Moscow, who have their sights set on the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, two of the most important cities in the region.

Very few Ukrainian reinforcements move along these artillery arteries. The trenches suggest that the Ukrainians are preparing to retreat to new defensive positions, abandoning towns like Soledar to the enemy.

On the market, the inhabitants hold an increasingly fatalistic discourse.

“If it kills me, then it kills me,” says Volodymyr Selevyorstov, a pensioner who says his neighbor’s cow was killed by shrapnel and he had to drag her body out of the garden to avoid the ‘odour.

“Now I’m waiting for my two cows to blow themselves up, today or maybe tomorrow. That’s how we live,” he quips.

– “Where can I run to?” –

The neighboring town of Soledar, Bakhmout, was once a stronghold of Western aid organizations. Its streets are now dotted with destroyed government buildings and warehouses hit by Russian rockets daily.

Ukrainian mobile units retaliate from several positions from this almost deserted city and around it. They then leave before the Russians can locate and respond to them.

This murderous game of cat and mouse infuriates Valentyna Pavlenko, a 69-year-old bank employee, passing by the ruins of a school which, according to locals, briefly housed Ukrainian soldiers.

“Where can I run? They’re shooting everywhere, wherever you go,” she explains, saying she just hopes “it’ll be quick” and won’t leave her disabled.

Denys Aleksandrov, a 42-year-old worker, lost his job several months ago because of the fighting. He now helps clean potatoes in the Soledar market. Like most of his neighbors, he resigned himself to the possibility of sudden death.

“What’s the point of even going into hiding? If the shell falls, it will hit anywhere, wherever you are,” he says, explaining that he is relieved to have something to do with his hands. in these difficult times.

He doesn’t see the point of going “hiding in a shelter like an idiot, with crazy ideas in his head”. “Here, we can talk to people. We all know each other now. It’s easier that way.”