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Evgeny Ponomarenko



How did you experience war in 2014? What do you remember from that? How old were you? How did 2014-2015 go for you?
Please tell this story in detail.

In 2014, I was still a teenager, one might say a fourteen-year-old child. I guess, like most teenagers, I didn't quite understand what was going on. There were more questions than answers.
Who are these people?What kind of flag is this?Why do they have weapons?
And in turn, the older generation assured that everything will be fine, that now we will "truly live".
Rumors spread around the city that we would join russia. Over time, the situation got worse, people began to disappear and shots were heard. Some of the locals joined the ranks of the so-called "LPR", but most of them were antisocial elements - alcoholics, homeless people and other people with a difficult fate.. 
At night, you could hear convoys of equipment moving, single shots from heavy artillery. As a teenager, I constantly followed the situation on social media and understood that battles were taking place not far from the city. Relatives did not share my opinion when I proposed to leave the city during hostilities, and believed that everything would work out fine. One morning my mother woke me up and told me that my sister and I were leaving town right now. I didn't want to leave my family, but they literally forced me into the car. Already on the way, I found out that one of the bridges on the outskirts was destroyed and that fighting was happening 5 km from the city.
Fourteen hours on the road, constant checkpoints - at the age of 14, I already looked like an adult, so they would always check me. They forced me to remove my outer clothing at all separatist checkpoints, they saw me as a young combatant, they looked for bruises from the stock and some kind of tattoos. Each checkpoint was a game of "russian roulette" - no one knew whether we would go on further. In a few days, the fighting will begin in Lysychansk, I will lose contact with my family for a week and will not go away from the TV waiting for news..
The city will be liberated, I will return in August, get into college to become a construction worker with the hope of rebuilding Luhansk region after the war, my father will get seriously ill after all that was experienced, my mother will start drinking, and at the age of 15 I will be forced to look for a job. The city will become free, but it will never be like it was before the war, and I will never be a child again.

"Where were you these 8 years?".
How has this time passed for you, what changed in your life since the events of 2014?
What has influenced you the most during this time?
Please write in detail.

I was at home, in the Luhansk region, Donetsk region, Poltava, in one word - I was in Ukraine. My father lived only three years after the events of 2014. I was forced to take care of my sick father, study and work in construction. The city has changed, people have changed, I have changed. It was difficult to find a job, the region was in decline, there were no investments, 2-3 enterprises were closed every year until only mines remained, which worked on state subsidies, mostly at a loss. Looking for a better fate and money to help my loved ones, I found a job in construction and left Lysychansk.
The war has never left me over these years, we rebuilt hospitals, orphanages, boarding schools that were damaged during the hostilities. I visited many cities of Donbas, saw the consequences and lived near the so-called "gray zone". Constant trips to the liberated cities and villages, ordinary people of Donbas are what influenced me the most. It was then, while traveling and communicating, on trains and buses, in Novoaidar and Druzhkivka, I realized for myself that beauty lies in simplicity, I began to write my first poems and engage in so-called "vandalism". Constantly changing my place of residence and changing my profession several times, there was only one thing that remained unchanged: I never had a sense of home, so I returned to Lysychansk time and time again. Always came back and will come back this time as well.

What was February 24, 2022 for you like?
Did you believe that a full-scale offensive would begin?Where are you now? What do you do?

What do you think about your future now?

I think that for many, February 24 started with a call. The call that rang out at five in the morning; the call that divided life into "before" and "after"; a call that sounded like part of a nightmare. The mother in tears talks about the beginning of the war and I can already hear the first explosions. I was sure it would happen, but I didn't want to believe in it till the end. The next month passed like one bad day. We were engaged in volunteering, made "Bandera smoothies" and several times tried to join the territorial defense.
Now I'm back in Kremenchuk, working two jobs and occasionally volunteering at refugee kitchens. The future is even more hazy than the present, a week ago the rashists fired missiles at Kremenchuk and a few days later occupied my native Lysychansk.
It is not the first time war has taken away our homes, friends, loved ones and even inspiration, but it will never be able to take away your freedom, your identity and your will to live. My city was my canvas, my lover was my inspiration, these are the things that now give me the strength to wake up in the morning and live in the present so that we have a future tomorrow. Life doesn't end as long as you want to live. For myself, I decided that I would definitely return home, because I always returned to my native land.

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