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Day 3: AIF in Donbass – School visit

Of course, it is not possible to understand the effects of the war that Donetsk people have been living for years in one night. After witnessing the sound of artillery shelling throughout the night and the windows trembling, albeit very slightly, we set off again. Fighter jets are flying sorties in the skies of the capital. This has not been seen for a while. Of course they are Russian planes. With the traces they leave behind them in many places in the sky, it does not seem like they will disappear. People are so accustomed to distant sounds that they don’t run away anymore. According to the tone of the sound, they have a natural foresight to analyse what the situation is, how far away it is, whether it is a cannon being fired or a cannon falling this way, the meaning of the intensity of the distant sounds of the air defence system, all of these. Although the streets are not very crowded, the flow of life continues as normal.

Water is supplied to the places with water tanks behind the lorries. Some shops were covered with sandbags or crates in front of their windows in order not to be damaged by shrapnel. In addition, the windows were covered with plastic PVC. This is a method to prevent people from being injured by glass fragments in an explosion. People show their creativity to protect themselves in practice.

We are in Shakhtyorsk boarding school and orphanage for children with special needs. We get information from the school administrators. It is a school for both orphaned children and children living with their families for education.

We visit the classrooms and are allowed to play with the children. We experience all kinds of emotions. We also worry that we may unintentionally upset the children. These small hearts get used to us very quickly. They respond to our love and start to feel safe. There is a different atmosphere in every classroom we enter. Because they have categorised each child according to their needs and created an education curriculum accordingly. Autism, Down syndrome, mental and/or physical disabilities. Whatever kind of needy child you can think of, they have thought of everything and acted accordingly. We are very happy to see the importance and care given to children who are our future. All the works produced by the children were exhibited on the walls and they created wonderful works. For the 8 March celebration, we came across the rehearsal for the performances to be held within the framework of the programme they prepared and we had the chance to watch them.

It is actually very simple to see the value given to children with special needs and to guess the value given to all other children. The fact that the importance that socialism attaches to human and education is still maintained in today’s Russia shows the importance that people attach to socialist values. The teachings of socialism are embedded in their lives.

Our friends are registering and delivering the aid materials and cash brought by the Anti-Fascist Caravan. For 8 March, the handmade gifts made by the children were presented to the women in AFC.

We are going to Gorlovka.   We will visit the preschool. When we arrived, we were greeted at the door by the school administrators and Aleksey Ivakhnenko, Deputy Head of Gorlovka City Administration.

In Gorlovka, which is close to the front line and was recently attacked, education cannot be held in schools. Children can no longer run around in the corridors of the school and receive education in the school. But they continue distance education so that education is not disrupted. Therefore, the entire staff of the school continues to work inside the building. They offered us the food they prepared for us because we travelled a long way and had a difficult journey.

Afterwards, we asked questions about the school and received extensive information. We handed over the materials and cash brought by AFC to the administration. Meanwhile, we can hear the sounds of explosions. The people immediately draw our attention to the sound. In the school garden we find shrapnel from a missile that had fallen nearby. We visualise what might happen if a child is hit by it. A local friend next to us wants to take it and throw it in the rubbish bin. It is so familiar that they want to lose the traces left by the war out of sight.

When we asked why he wanted to throw it in the rubbish, he said that it was in an area where there were children and that he did it so that they would not cut themselves. But we take the shrapnel and show it to our friends in the AFC. We record the parts of the instruments of death that fascism sends to children and the aid materials we bring in the face of this. We curse the guards of this system once again. We have one more reason to hold them to account, engraved in our brains. We interview the school director, the volunteer militia and the deputy head of the city administration in Russian.

Once we have translations from our other friends in AIF to understand what they are saying, we will publish them. There is so much material to publish, so many stories to tell. We have been defeated by the Internet again. We have to keep the materials waiting.

The reasons for the lack of internet are that the enemy targets the region with missiles and destroys its infrastructure, the internet is deliberately denied in some places for security reasons, to prevent spy activity and military mobilisation from becoming a target. And we take these things very naturally in a war environment.

We visited the inaugurated memorial in the centre of Gorlovka, dedicated to the twenty-six people killed during the bombing of Ukraine, and laid flowers. On the first marble only the names of the children are written.

Podlipokaya Anastasiya Aleksevna was born on 08.08.2013. She was murdered on 7 August 2014, one day before her birthday. She will be neither the first nor the last victim of imperialism, the murderer of the peoples of the world, before she turns one year old. We are sharpening our anger.

We are on the road again. Despite what we see and hear, we do not feel even an iota of fear. We are travelling towards Komsomolske with our anger.

We are going to visit the friend of our Italian friends, the internationalist and fighter Edy Ongara, or Bozambo as he was called. On 31 March 2022, Bozambo, who joined the Prizrak Brigade in 2015, was killed by a grenade in a trench during the fighting in the village of Adveedka, north of Donetsk. According to the comrades-in-arms of Bozambo, a hero of the sacrifice generation, he jumped on a grenade thrown to save his fellow fighters. His mutilated body was brought in a closed coffin by five soldiers for burial, where he was laid to rest. We are touched, but as Edy says, we live internationalism in its true meaning and we also respect Edy, who learnt from his grandfathers the resistance against fascism and decided to fight.

On our way back to Donetsk, a flood of emotion breaks out in our car. Those who knew Edy are experiencing the sadness of leaving him behind again. We had an interview with our friend from Sardinia who knew him. He told us about Edy. We will publish it as soon as possible like our other interviews.

We arrive late at our hotel that is hiding us though it’s windows are broken. We are late to welcome our visitors. On the contrary, they welcome us. Firstly, we talk for hours with Ekaterina Foteva and Alexandr Shevtsov. They are comrades of those who were massacred in the trade union building in Odessa after the Maydan events. They told us how they survived the fire. And then they decided to do something, inspired by the Soviet resistance they had heard about from their grandmothers and grandfathers, they decided to pursue partisan activities.

They destroyed volunteer centres that were feeding and harbouring neo-Nazis, and after a while our modern-day partisans were caught. After five years in prison, the couple were released as part of a prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine. After interviewing their story, we thank them and see them off.

We had a chat with Okay Deprem, a journalist who has been reporting in Donbass since 2014 and whom we met the day before. He told us about the period when the clashes first started and his analyses about the next process.

And this is how we ended our day. We try to meet our bathing and other needs with cold water that comes for one hour a day and we finish our preparations to set off to another region the next day.

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