If it wasn’t for fresh “patches” on houses that got repaired and adhesive tape on the windows, it would be almost impossible to tell that this Mariupol neighborhood was subjected to Grad shelling on January 24, 2015. People were advised to tape up their windows to prevent shards of glass from falling inside during shellfire.
Five years later, the Skhidnyi (“Eastern”) neighborhood is sunny and crowded even in January. People are doing their shopping at the Kyivskyi market. Churches are full of people waiting to consecrate water on Epiphany. Playgrounds are filled with kids listening to Ukrainian pop artist Monatik from a pocket speaker.
Five years ago, things looked different: roofless homes shattered by explosive fragmentation, black through-holes from missiles hitting apartment blocks, charred cars on the streets.
Olena and Mykola Mytsyk rebuilt their home almost from scratch. Five years ago, six shells fell by its side. One hit the gas pipeline, and fire spread everywhere. There was no water to start extinguishing the fire before the arrival of the firemen. The losses suffered by the family were estimated at 1,500,000 hryvnias ($95,000), but they were only paid 500,000 ($31,600). This, according to Olena, was not enough to complete the repair, and they had to borrow more.
"The house used to be beautiful. It had a beautiful roof, a new fence, a forged iron gate. Can you tell that all this was once here? We had lived in the house for three years before the war. Now I can’t bear to stay here."
Olena is still afraid to stay in the house, she hasn’t spent a night here since. Now her daughter and mother live here. Olena admits she is still under stress. Off-camera, she says she turned to volunteers for psychological help, but they told her that they only help children. "After the shelling, I lost my sense of smell, my eyesight deteriorated. I was never a sound sleeper, but now I suffer from insomnia. I can’t convey this to you. If I were told, "Cry, Olena," like a movie actress, I would burst into tears. I have a constant ache here (points to her chest - ed.). Five years have passed, but time has not healed."
Olena also lost her closest friend during the shelling.
“This is my colleague, we have worked together for 30 years. My dear friend. We agreed to meet that day. She went to get an injection, and as she was crossing the road, the shelling began. She fell on the road and screamed, "Help!" A woman ran out of the house and asked, 'What's wrong with you?' And she said 'legs.' [The other woman] looked down and said 'there are no legs.' My friend had both her legs torn off, as well as her fingers. I got burned down and she was killed. That’s how we met."