“It scares a little but you get used to it”, confides, at the counter of the store selling stuffed animals, bicycles and scooters for children, the saleswoman who had found herself unemployed for nearly three months during which she says she received almost no no public aid.

The business had closed its doors shortly after the start of the Russian offensive on February 24, like most of the other stores in Kramatorsk, a city in the industrial basin of Donbass.

But for the past few weeks, they have been gradually reopening and many people are coming back. “In my street where there are around 300 homes, the inhabitants had almost all left, now they have almost all returned”, says Ms Miroshnichenko.

The situation is paradoxical. Kramatorsk, a large city located in the center of what remains of Donbass under Ukrainian control, is gradually coming back to life while Sloviansk in the north, Siversk in the northeast and Bakhmout in the southeast are under fire from Russian artillery.

But people have no choice but to go home, said Oleg Malimonienko, who has just reopened his restaurant. “In 99% of cases, it’s because you have to eat well, pay your rent and the bills,” says the 54-year-old plump man.

He now hopes that the clientele of his establishment will return, and perhaps also welcome Ukrainian soldiers who can be seen everywhere in town.

“The military are the ones who buy the most items from us, especially knives and daggers,” said Natalia Kiritchenko, saleswoman in a small store that reopened after three months of closure.

“Like us, many people have returned to Kramatorsk but they have no money,” adds this 56-year-old woman who had no choice but to go back to work. She says she benefited during the closing of the store from state aid, far from sufficient to make ends meet.

– “On felt the threat” –

“When we hear more or less strong shelling from one side or the other, we feel the threat and we wonder what awaits us,” adds Ms. Kiritchenko with a resigned air.

The hardest way to get to work when you don’t have a car, observes Ms. Miroshnichenko, “is public transport, because the tram stops every time the bomb warning sirens sound”, and they howl many times from morning till night.

“Since the reopening of the store ten days ago, I have already come once on foot”, or 50 minutes on foot, she adds.

The difficulties in getting around town or outside is precisely what prompted the “Centre for bikes” to resume service, explains one of the employees of this store in the basement of a building, Vladimir Pozolotin.

“Many have asked me on my YouTube channel when we reopen, because some are afraid to take the car, others do not have gas or do not want to get in the long lines of gas stations, so they buy a bike or come to have theirs repaired”, explains the 33-year-old man who pedals four kilometers a day to come and go from work.

For the moment, “the clientele represents only 10% of what it was before” the war “but it’s better than nothing”, smiles the young man in a black tracksuit jacket, cap screwed on his head.

He says he is also getting used to the sounds of the bombings which for the moment spare Kramatorsk, where he has always remained since the start of the conflict.

“If it falls near here,” he said, referring to rocket fire hitting nearby towns, “we’ll see.” What if there is a serious threat to the city? “Leaving? But where?”