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‘Grab kids and run!’ – Donbass women give birth under barrage of fire

Donbass children in war

A war seems to be endless fighting, where there is no place for ordinary life. There is no way to work normally, go to school, love, start a family. However, statistics on the birth rate in Donbass says the opposite. It says about children who have been born under fire and have no idea what peace is like.

According to the Healthcare Ministry of the Donetsk People's Republic, 453 children were born in 2018 – 222 boys and 231 girls. In 2017, 11,090 babies were delivered in local maternity homes. Chief Physician of the territorial Family and Health medical institution Denis Taranov says that, compared to 2015, the figures have doubled.

Two mothers, Ksenia and Yana, who live in Donetsk and did not leave even during grave hostilities, told why a baby boom has happened in Donbass.

Ksenia and Sofia: in the war with a baby

We got married in the summer of 2014, it was the peak of hostilities. A week before the set date, they called us from the registry office and said that they would not register our marriage – there were heavy bombardments. And later we were offered to hold the event without a solemn ceremony. A year after the wedding, we decided to have a child. The fighting was ongoing all the time, there was hardly any calm period.

Ksenia and Sofia

The day after the birth of the daughter Sonya, the hospital building came under a terrible bombardment. Mothers with babies stayed in the basement for two days. I remember how a nurse rushed into the ward screaming: "Grab the kids and run!" On the second floor the blast wave has already knocked out the glasses, we were on the first floor. Everyone forgot about the pain and ran, and after all, five of the seven women had recently delivered through caesarean section. It was then that we set in the basement, holding the child close and thinking: "Is that all?"

One woman gave birth in a car, she had failed to get to hospital due to the shelling. All of us were discharged ahead of schedule, the decision was made that at home it could be safer.

In February, when my daughter was six months old, there happened shell-hits in neighbouring buildings, very close. We decided to move to the parents’ place, but it was scary to leave the apartment – because of the marauders. Therefore, the husband returned every night to see if everything is at place. Our neighbours are still repairing houses after that shelling.

Now we are afraid that the aggravation will begin again and we will have to escape. And where can we go? Here live our parents, here is my husband's job, our own housing. Many who had left have already returned. Everyone wants to live at home. A friend of mine has returned, she lives in the suburb of Donetsk and can hear the "truce" every day.

I feel fear for my child. When the daughter was small, I could grab her from the crib and quickly hide. In the closet I have made a place for her to sleep. I thought it was safer there. When the shelling started, we would hide in the corridor behind the wall and hope that it could protect us. We immediately searched for reports on the Internet to check where shells had landed. Although it is clear that if a shell hits our place, we will not survive. It can’t be helped. Time passes, we must live. It does not depend on us when the war ends. We are like fleas – no one will notice if will are killed.

One can get used to war, it's an ordinary life for us. We can hear bangs somewhere on the outskirts and just close the windows, make the TV louder. When they shoot far [from our place], no one pays any attention already.

In the spring, my mother, daughter and me were on a walk when a shell suddenly flew over my head. There was no place to hide, we fell to the ground. Mom suddenly turned her head and said: "Why are we lying, let’s run!" We ran, but people just stood still looking where shells headed, where they landed, they took pictures on their phone – they had got used to this.

Before the wedding, I had spent most of the summer at work. Shelling began by evening. You look out on the street, and everything flies, falls, crashes there. The chief immediately turned us back and made stay in the office. We would not return home for weeks. It was always scary, but now it's ok.

We were at the very beginning, we met, found a job, and then the war came. We cannot foresee the future, nobody plans anything. The fighting will end and then we'll see. We reason all this in a simple way: a year has gone by and it’s good, a day has passed – and that’s all right.

All the issues that had concerned us before the war had been little things, not a big deal. People, you do not understand: the main thing for us is that the shooting was ceased. We will endure everything. We just want to live.

Yana and Lev: terrible thing to get used to – war

My children have a big age difference – 14 years. I had long hesitated before having a second child, but how long could I wait? We wanted a baby, but we had to postpone this, because the fighting was on, my husband was seriously injured. All of us watch daily reports, we know how many have perished, including children.

Yana and Lev

One year has passed, then a second, a third, and the war does not end. And the strangest thing is that when you go out for a walk to the park, there are lots of moms with baby carriages. We are having a baby boom in Donetsk. And I decided: should God give me a child, I will deliver it.

It's scary, but one gets used to it. What should we do? Not live, not have kids, not go to work? Before my being discharged from the maternity hospital, our district had come under fire, funnels appeared a hundred meters from the house. My husband suggested not leaving the hospital. How can I not go home with the baby, where everything has been prepared: a crib, clothes? I wanted to go home, and we did go. They say that one cannot hear his or her bullet. It was only for a week that we left, at the insistence of my husband, when there was very heavy shelling.

During the war years, we have become totally different, and, of course, all these changes will affect children. It is not that people have less joy now, no, this joy just has other reasons. Friends have arrived, the whole family are alive – that is joyful. The most important holiday is May 9th. We perceive everything from the other side. It used to be the story of our grandfathers, and now it's ours. Here's the Father, here's the Son – and now there is the War.

I do not know of any woman who would have an abortion only because there now hostilities. Girls talk about everything at hospital: about nappies, diapers, children, but not about the fighting. We take the war as a terrible, stupid thing to get used to.

It is fearful to walk not only with a stroller, but without it as well. The front is five kilometres straight from our house. When "heavy" ammunition is fired, it is well audible. And the windows shake strongly. Sometimes, when they shoot in the evening and it's not critical, everyone is walking outside.

I want all this to come to an end. Only then will development begin. Now we live in one day and do not know what may happen tomorrow. I had to transfer my daughter to another school. She studied at Putilovka, every day I felt the fear for her. Our children are already different from their peers who live in peace. They watch films about the war, take fighting reports in a completely different way. For them, this is not some abstract information, but their present life. They seem to have been hurt by this war.

My nieces, they are now nine and 12 years old, are very much afraid. The girls get hysterical at the sound of shooting. When the shelling was heavier, they were only six and nine. All the sounds of war cause them animal fear. The youngest comes to her mother's arms and cannot sleep at night.

The most terrible thing is that I no longer regard this situation as something terrible. This is a given. I know that there is another life. Sometimes we go to Rostov-on-Don, and I understand how different I am from people around. They do live, but we don’t live here. We cannot breathe in full. These are my last impressions of a trip to a peaceful city. People run around, but I do not understand them. There are two hundred kilometers between us, but we are completely different. It seemed to me that even in my appearance it was noticeable that I had come from a place where hostilities are ongoing. Look, understand: we are in a war.

Many have returned back, in my opinion, 50 percent have come home.

Tomorrow I may not see my husband, daughter, son. My husband was wounded, but before that we had said goodbye as usually – he went to work and I – to have my hair cut. Two hours later I received a call. At that moment, the value of human life changed for me. All our senses are sharpened, everything is on the surface. Women have children also because they understand: tomorrow may not come. Tomorrow the one you love may be killed.

According to the official data, from January 1 to December 28, 2017, 595 people were injured in the territory of the Donetsk People's Republic, including 361 servicemen and 234 civilians, among them 14 children under the age of 18. 278 people were killed: 247 servicemen and 31 civilians, among them two children under the age of 18. Since the beginning of the armed conflict, 4,567 people, including 76 children, have perished in the DPR.

Among the deceased there is Kira, she was nine months old, Nastya – 11 months, Kirill – one year, Alyona – four years, Vanya – five years.

DONi News Agency

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