How To Raise 14 Children On The Frontline: A Portrait From The War
19 January, 2017

Nadia Dzhenibekova is 56. She’s a mother of 14 children, 13 of whom are adopted. She adopted the four youngest girls – Ira, Olya, Nadya, and Nadyushka – right before the start of the war. Two girls have disabilities. They moved to a new house in the Zhovanka village not far from Horlivka, Donetsk region, and had no idea that they would soon be living directly on the frontline.

At first, the so-called “DNR” took control of the village. But there was active fighting and the front was shifting. Zhovanka was trapped in the “grey zone” for a year. After that, it was back under the control of the Ukrainian forces. The village is directly on the frontline.

In 2015, the Ukrainian government announced a blockade of occupied Donbas and the entrance of passenger transport was banned. The embargo affected the import of nutritional products. Villages such as Zhovanka were isolated – there was no food, no money, and no work. Hromadske tells the story of Dzhenibekova’s family.

“At first, they [children] didn’t understand anything. When they were shooting, we were telling them that it was a thunderstorm or whatever. We were protecting them from it. My children aren’t scared. No matter how heavy the shelling was, I never cried nor got hysterical or scared in front of them,” says Nadia.

The realities were harsh after the blockade was announced. Nadia fed her large family of 8 (the older children don’t live with the mother) for 4,500 hryvnias for the entire year. They also had no water for 2 years.

“My younger brother was helping a lot, as well as the older children; neighbors were giving us some potatoes and whatnot,” says Nadia.

She didn’t want to leave her house, but on New Year's Eve, volunteers persuaded her to move to another place. With the money raised, they managed to buy a house in a small town not far from Bakhmut, Donetsk region.

“When you come to Bakhmut (formerly known as Artemivsk), there is no war. People don’t want to even hear about it,” says Nadia.

Now her family is settling into the new house. It’s safer here–no shots are heard. But now there is a new problem. The older children live on the other side of the demarcation line with their families, and now it’s harder to get there.