By ANATOLY DUBOVIK in Dnipro, eastern Ukraine
A facebook post from 22 March. The shops that sell manufactured consumer goods are starting to open now. Most are still closed, but the process is underway. Shops selling expensive clothes, on the other hand, are covered in signs saying “final sale” and “this shop is closing”.
Companies are also, bit by bit, starting work again. In the building where I work, there are nine or ten offices on our floor. We first opened up again a week ago, and today three offices are already functioning. These are all industrial companies, not trade or retail outfits.
Private businesses are obliged to accept payments by bank card, they can not do cash-only. Breaches can lead to a fine of 3400 hryvna [105 euros].
Yesterday the evacuation of the Dnepropetrovsk Historical Museum got underway. It opened in 1849, on the initiative of a local schoolteacher. In 1942-43 the Germans looted it, but it was restored and is now one of the best in Ukraine. It has several hundred thousand artefacts, dating back to the paleolithic. There is even an Egyptian mummy. Where all this is being taken to is a secret, of course.
It’s a shame that it’s a long way from where I live to the museum. I don’t know when I’ll be able to go and find out whether they have taken away the “stone women” that stand (stood?) in front of the museum. Several of them are in the photo. My late first wife, Anna Dubovik, was involved in discovering the one on the left. That was when she was a student in the faculty of history, and did a practical summer course on archaeological digs.
For the first time, I met people in Dnipro who had been driven out of Mariupol: a family with children. Gloomy, exhausted. I offered to buy them whatever they needed. At first they didn’t accept, but I convinced them – because I was in a position to help. I took them sausage, bread, cheese, ryazhenka [a type of plain yogurt], apples and oranges.
According to the UN, there are 12 million internally displaced person, that is, refugees from Mariupol, Kharkiv, Kyiv and other cities and towns near the front lines. [The latest published report from the International Organisation for Migration estimates 6.5 million – although it’s of course impossible to count accurately. SP.] Another 4 million have left Ukraine – although the rate at which refugees are crossing the border has already fallen, to a quarter of what it was. In the first ten days of March the crossing points were registering on average 17,000 people per day; now it is 3000-4000.
Some good news. There is information about collaborators being liquidated. On Sunday in Kherson, persons unknown shot dead Pavel Slobodchikov, an assistant to the “city mayor”. He was killed directly in front of his home. The “mayor”, who was appointed once the Putinists arrived, is named Saldo. As far as I understand, it was his political party, the “Vladimir Saldo Bloc”, that was banned on the same day.
And finally. My manager today passed by a column of Russian prisoners of war, several dozen of them. He said: “Well, OK, I understand why they are all so dirty and why they stink. But why are they all so little? They looked like they’ve been squashed – a metre with a cap [an expression similar to “knee high to a grasshopper”. SP]. As though, at home, no-one had fed them properly, from birth. All really young – 20 years old, perhaps 22.”
They won’t be returning home in a hurry, the dear things.
A facebook post from 24 March. Yesterday I went to the centre of the city to pay the rent for the office where my wife works. The centre looks almost the same as before 24 February, 2022. Lots of people, lots of cars … but a siren was howling.
It’s necessary to say a few words about paying the rent. From the beginning of the war, landlords sharply reduced rents. My Natasha left for Germany, so she no longer works in the office, but there’s still furniture, pieces of equipment, etc. For the duration of the war, her rent is reduced to 20% of its previous level.
For my own workplace, the rent is now 60% of the pre-war rate, since we are still working. After the victory, no one will pay the full rate. What they are paying now—20%, 60%—that will be the final rent. In fact there have been no directions from the government regarding this; in many cases the reduction of rents took place at the initiative of the owners of the premises (my wife and I deal with different landlords).
Today, for the first time in more than a month, I spent the whole day at home, doing household chores and working on historical research.
I woke up before 6 a.m. Woke up to the whining of an air raid siren. It’s been whining practically the whole day, with only brief interruptions. This has a very strong effect on the psyche, when the whining goes on for hours every day, every week. And you know that at any moment something can fly in, and then it’s good if it just kills you, but worse if it cripples you and leaves you to live without an arm or a leg, or—as is the most likely in my case—you completely lose your sight. (An artificial lens will easily jump out of its place if your face is merely in the path of the shock wave—a shock wave which is harmless to others.)
In order not to have to listen to the sirens, I turn on music. Western rock classics from the 1960s. Today I played Jefferson Airplane and the Bluesbreakers.
I washed the blankets and bedspreads that cover the windows. We’re in full blackout mode.
I sorted out my backpack. On 26 February I prepared my old backpack, which I used to take to the mountains. You have to be ready to go the bomb shelter, and the backpack always sits next to the door to the yard. There’s a sleeping bag, karemat [sleeping pad], canned food, bread, sweets (not for me, but to share with children); knives, forks, spoons, and a metal mug; warm clothes, two changes of underwear and socks, various household items such as tape, needles with thread, flashlight, and six litres of water. A loaf of bread lasts me for three days. When I buy a new loaf, I put it in the backpack, remove the old one, and put it on the table.
This is how we live.
I’m thankful for my good fortune and grateful for the efforts of those who are holding the front—and for the fact that so far neither the backpack nor a place in the bomb shelter have been necessary.
□ Anatoly Dubovik is an anarchist since 1989, and a historian of the anarchist movement. These facebook posts are reproduced with permission.
□ Note. Dnipro, Ukraine’s fourth largest city, was formerly named Yekaterinoslav. In 1926 it was renamed Dnepropetrovsk after the Dnipr river that runs through it and Grigory Petrovsky, a leader of the Ukrainian Communist party. In 2016, after the adoption of the “decommunisation” law, it was renamed Dnipro.