Donbass, the war that does not exist: the Promzona and the women of the east

(To Giorgio Bianchi)

It's still early in the morning when the phone starts ringing: the call I've been waiting for has finally arrived. Today I would finally have reached the Promzona.

La Promzona it is the throbbing wound of this war now completely forgotten by the media mainstream; literally, the term refers to any industrial area but from January to today, or since the government army in Kiev has resumed its progress, with this word refers to the triangle Yasenavataya, Avdiivka, Krutaia Balka headquarters of major production facilities and theater of the most bloody clashes in recent months.

For the Ukrainian army to control the road junction that is located there, it would mean to reach Donetsk in a few steps.
For this reason trenches and bunkers were excavated throughout the area; you fight to gain a few hundred meters like in the First World War.

There are few journalists admitted from those parts, let alone those from NATO countries; therefore my disbelief is equal only to fear.
Fear yes because in those parts, in spite of the media silence, the noise is a lot and makes the legs tremble as well as the ground.

Appointment at the usual bar; in a table outside sits Deki lo Specnaz Serbian who fights as a volunteer for the separatist army: he greets me warmly and laughs at the service on the first Russian channel that paradoxically saw us together with telling our stories.
The hair with the line on one side and the good-natured smile clash with the halo of legend that accompanies it in these parts; since he started fighting in the former Yugoslavia with the Serbian army, until today, he has seen many and those that can be told will be reported in a book that will soon be in bookstores and tell his story.

Inside, the script is always the same: handshakes, coffee and the news all-day television broadcasting the time.
Half an hour, an hour, and then the fateful "go".

Compared to the last time the machine has two fingers of extra dust and one side glass less; I ask for light, but a wave of my hand makes me understand that it would be a long story to tell.

The journey to the Promzona it is not long but does not pass: on the radio an improbable rap Russian plays music and for the first time in a month it's hot.

Get on the overpass the car stops; I am told to wear a helmet and a bullet-proof jacket (bronezhilet in these parts) and to sit in the back seat.

The off-road begins to dart on the asphalt bruised by dozens of mortar and artillery, snaking between craters and debris; on the side of the road elms and birches reduced to pitiful skeletons.

The scenario is that of a post-apocalyptic world in which the human race is on the verge of extinction following a nuclear holocaust ... But here we are in Europe, a stone's throw from our home and the fact that all this does not concern us , seen from here, leaves disconcerted.

Finally we arrive at the position; empty ammunition boxes filled with sand, various armaments and a white Prinz parked next to an AGS.

The smiles and pats on the shoulders of the other seats visited here give way to the shy looks and greetings mentioned.
The desire to laugh and joke has passed a long time ago: these men are exhausted, worn out, torn; here the night does not close the eye and hell is seen in all its horror from a privileged position.

The government posts are located about 80 / 90 meters from the separatist trenches, snipers are everywhere, as well as the armed positions of pulimiot; here it is not allowed to get distracted also because where the bullets do not arrive the artillery arrives.

On our arrival the situation is rather quiet: only occasionally you can hear a few flares followed by detonations ... Apparently no one seems to pay much attention to anything, even if promptly answer you promptly: this is RPG, this is mortar, this is AGS .
Every sound has its correspondent, that the war-trained ear recognizes instantly.

Every man is intent on doing something: there are those who clean the pulimiot, who shovels coal, who supplies the generator with diesel oil, and who in warhorse starts to reach the trench.

Viktor accompanies us on the elevated position: from there it is possible to see everything. In front of us is Avdiivka, on the right Yasenavataya with its industrial area that stands out in the background like a mirage and behind us the Krutaia Balka valley. The government is there a few meters from us: we are in fact on the fault line of this tormented nation.

Day after day the two plates go away as continents adrift, shot after blow, wounded after wounded, dead after death; Yes, because even if the TV does not say, in these parts we die or remain disabled every day and this does nothing but stratify the mutual hatred of the two parties. Seen from here the fracture seems now irreparable.

It is precisely while I am on that hill, behind the sandbags, enjoying a minute of total silence that I can think of the minute polemics in Italy: the one about the women of the East.

The theme of the day on the first national channel was "why choose a woman from the East".

On why choosing a woman from the East in general I can not answer but I would certainly have to say something about why choose a woman of these parts.

I would choose it because for three years, despite a war we are all guilty of, they pull the cart with their men to the front or flee who knows where; because in the morning they bring their children to school and in the afternoon to the house of culture to perform physical or recreational activities (which are free of charge and take place in structures to make our public buildings ruined). Because they do not actually "frignano" even if the world has collapsed on him, but they roll up their sleeves every day to earn the little that allows them to survive with dignity.

I would choose them because they are there to take care of the orchard in the rubble of the bombed house, because folded in two and with their feet in the mud prepare roses in the flower beds for the next flowering, because young and innocent find a way to get lost playing with a snail in a glass jar or sing with an angel's voice for an audience that listens to her kidnapped.

I see her dancing with infinite grace in that theater of opera that has never stopped working despite the bombs, because here the care of the spirit still has a value.

Here are just some of the reasons why I would choose a woman "of these parts"; surely among the women "of our parts I would not choose" those between a visit from the plastic surgeon and a television host in some talent, cianciano of things that do not know buckling labels pre-established by spin doctor regime.

An explosion in the distance reawakens me and leads me back to reality; thick, black smoke rises above the horizon. Then a new shot, and then another ... so a long series of gusts. The evening is approaching and with it the resumption of fighting.

My guide mentions me that time to go, moving in the evening with the lights of the car turned on would be suicide.

A fleeting salute and again darting at full speed on that road battered by artillery shots as the thick smoke of yet another explosion spreads before the windshield of the car.

(images of the author)