Photo by Anastasia Taylor-Lind @anastasiatl | Tatiana Batskalyova cares for her 90-year-old mother-in-law, Lira. Prior to the war, both women used to live in a family house in the suburban village of Opytne, between Donetsk and Avdeevka, in eastern Ukraine. They had to flee when their street became a front line—a powerful explosion buried Lira alive under the wreckage. Altogether the house got three direct artillery hits.
Now they live in Tatiana’s daughter’s apartment in Avdeevka. This apartment was also damaged by shelling and repaired by the women on their own. “My daughter has a real talent! She has fixed it so nicely you could never tell there was a huge hole in this wall,” she proudly tells us. Her husband, Aleksander, chose to rebel against the war’s indignity in his own way: like many people in eastern Ukraine, he refuses to leave his demolished house. He continues living in the basement–the only surviving part–and cultivates the garden. Every day he takes a bike ride through the minefield that separates Opytnoe from Avdeevka to visit his wife. Tatiana prepares him a meal to take back, as he has no kitchen left in the ruins.
Tatiana lost a court hearing over compensation for her house. She felt humiliated by the attitude of the hearing members: “They would ask me questions like, why do I think that my house was shelled? Then they turned to a witness and began interrogating her about what brand of refrigerator I had and how many burners there were on the gas stove. They were talking to us like they assumed we were lying and it was their job to catch us out.” Ukraine’s official position is that Russia is to blame for the war, and so all claims should be addressed across the border.
Words by Alisa Sopova, from the series #5Kfromthefrontline , an ongoing project about the everyday consequences of the war in eastern Ukraine.