HR activists-volunteers are impressed with unity, solidarity and non-indifference of Kharkiv citizens
Aliaksei Kolchyn and Marharyta Vialichkina, human rights activists who participate in the "Human Rights Humanitarian Mission in Ukraine" as volunteers, assisting the displaced from the combat zone in Kharkiv, share their observations and reflections on the situation in the city and the eternal problem of “war and peace”, speaking about the anxieties and hopes of ordinary Ukrainians.
Issue of "war and peace"
Aliaksei Kolchyn: Of course, it is better to have peace, even a peace like that. Now we are looking at the situation as volunteers who take care of refugees. Of course, during a truce we can organize our work with migrants much better. During hostilities the number of refugees increases drastically and each such wave demands extraordinary efforts from Kharkiv activists.
Marharyta Vialichkina: all ordinary people we talked to want peace. There are many casualties among the participants of the ATO (anti-terrorist operation) and civilians, many wounded. In Kharkiv, the displaced are actually left alone with their problems, and have to solve them with the assistance of volunteers. Many citizens aren't satisfied with the local authorities. The prices for rental housing in Kharkiv have become several times higher since the beginning of the military conflict. The locals are reluctant to rent apartments to migrants and it is difficult for the latter ones to find a job.
Volunteers also provide a great assistance to the army, supplying soldiers with food, clothes and providing them with other necessary items. While taking the oath the guys are wearing sportswear, and need to buy uniforms on their own.
Life in the wait of provocations and sabotage
Aliaksei Kolchyn: Many people are expecting an aggravation of the situation at least in the ATO zone, if not in the Kharkiv region. Nobody has great hopes for this “truce”, and most people expect another escalation of the situation: there are too much military forces concentrated in one place, which results in regular clashes and provocations.
Marharyta Vialichkina: There is no panic among Kharkiv dwellers despite various rumors. People are hungry for peace. Many of them are very resolute and promise to go and protest in Kyiv unless there is peace. Participants of the ATO tell that they aren't ordered to attack, just to defend themselves and repel the attacks. 90% of captives are soldiers of the Russian army.
Moods and attitudes of Kharkiv citizens
Aliaksei Kolchyn: Absolutely all people we have communicated with have a pro-Ukrainian position. Kharkiv is all covered with blue-yellow ribbons and stripes. Many taxi cars drive with Ukrainian flags on them, many drivers have Ukrainian flags inside their cars. I have never seen so-called “St. George ribbons” on cars or anywhere else.
Marharyta Vialichkina: One cannot defeat the Ukrainian people. Kharkiv citizens live with hopes for the future and change of the local authorities. Funds for the aid sent to the ATO zone are raised everywhere.
Attitude to Belarusians
Aliaksei Kolchyn: the attitude is exclusively positive, although we talk mainly in Russian. Kharkiv is mostly Russian-speaking, and we have to communicate mainly with refugees from the East of Ukraine.
Marharyta Vialichkina: Ukrainians have a very good attitude to Belarusians and immediately establish contacts. They say that Belarus is clean, that our “Father” has put the things in order. Though Ukrainians our neighbors, they seem to know little about our country. They are surprised to find out that Belarusians can vote at elections for a week, but are deprived of the opportunity to receive education in the Belarusian language. Here we speak Russian, they understand Belarusian too, but not all of it. A volunteer fighter, for instance, principally didn't want to talk to us in the language of the invaders.
More information about the work of the Belarusian volunteers can be found at section "Human Rights Humanitarian Mission in Ukraine" on our website or at the Facebook account of the mission.
Photos by Marharyta Vialichkina