'People Live Here': How Ukrainians Are Trying to Survive the War

Albert Lores' photos capture the lives of people who have been forced to paint messages on their doors to avoid being bombed.

This article originally appeared on VICE UK

In April of 2014, as fighting escalated in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine between armed pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian government, residents painted the phrase "people live here" on their front doors and gates as a way to plead with the military not to bomb, sniper fire or occupy their homes.

Today, these inscriptions are as important as ever. Many of these homes are in villages that are now almost completely abandoned, with the fighting having destroyed up to 90 percent of buildings in some areas – especially villages close to the line that splits Ukraine from the separatist-controlled areas of Donbass. The people and families that are left are still desperately trying to cling on to their homes and livelihoods.

Photographer Albert Lores travelled to the villages around the contact line to capture the stories of those who still live there and find out what it's like to be forever surrounded by war.

Yuri, 56, lives in Pisky. Before the war, it was a popular summer holiday destination for Donetsk’s wealthy, but almost 90 percent of the village has been destroyed in recent years.

Chlorine storage at the Karlivka water filter station. Due to its proximity to the contact line, the filter station is within reach of shelling. Thousands of people who live close by are at risk of chlorine gas poisoning. If the chlorine storage were to be damaged by shelling, almost everyone within a 200 metre radius would be at risk of death, and people for several kilometres downwind could suffer lifelong respiratory problems.

Around 50 children study in Novobakhmutivka's secondary school. It's a village of around 160 residents, 10km from the contact line. The deepest well in Novobakhmutivka is located near the school, and is used by villagers to get clean water. But the pipeline is in such a dire state that the water doesn't reach the village.

Vodiane has 130 residents and is 2km from the contact line. The inscription reads: "People live here".

Pisky has seven residents and is 1km away from from the contact line. The inscription reads: "A family lives here".

The Avdiivka coke and chemical plant. The town has 20,000 residents and is located 5km from the contact line.

Sonya, 88 years old, in front of the house she was relocated to in 2015, after her own house was destroyed by shelling. Sonya lives with her disabled son in Pisky. The inscription on her right reads: "People live here".

A gate in Pisky. The inscription reads: "People and Ryabko the dog live here".

Former physics teacher Volodymyr, 90, in front of his apartment. In 2015, shelling destroyed the house of his friend and colleague, Maria. Volodymyr invited her to move in with him. They live in Zalizne, a village with a population of 1575 people, 5km from the contact line.

Victoria, 74, lives 2km from the contact line. Victoria was born in the Carpathian mountains but spent most of her life in the Donetsk region. In 2015, a shell hit her house but it stuck in the wall and did not explode. She tied it to a car with a rope and tried to pull it out. "If I had called the military, they would have done the same. I'm old, and I didn’t want young soldiers to risk their lives for me."

Nastya (left), 12, plays with her younger cousin who has come to visit. Nastya lost her parents when they were hit by a bomb as they returned home from the shops. Nastya’s father covered her with his body to protect her. He died instantly. Doctors tried but failed to save her mother. Now, Nastya’s grandmother takes care of her. It took her grandmother two years to collect all the documents she needed to prove she was able to take care of her granddaughter. Nastya and one other boy are the only children in their village of Pervomaiske, 3km from the contact line.

Vodiane has around 130 inhabitants and is 2km from the contact line. The inscription reads: "Peaceful people live here".

A break between classes at Novobakhmutivka's secondary school.

Nastya's 64-year-old grandmother, Olga Vladimiriva. They live in Pervomaiske, only 3km from the contact line.


war, News, Ukraine, russia, conflict, VICE International

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