MELITOPOL UKRAINE – Hanna asked me to call her on Messenger on Saturday, April 4th. Before news from her could be received only through her friend from the village nearby. Once every three or four days she would write “Hanna and her daughter are alive, they are safe” on Facebook. My conversation with Hanna lasted for less than ten minutes.
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During that time, she told me about life in Melitopol, a town in the south of Ukraine, which is currently occupied by the Russians and which has been almost completely cut off from Ukraine informationally since the 26th of March. The main thing Hanna asked me to try to tell the whole world was simple: “Save Melitopol”.
Before the Russian invasion, Hanna taught Civic Education, Ecology, German, and Culture in the Melitopol Professional Agrarian Lyceum. She worked with future tractor operators, mechanics, and drivers — namely, with young people who later on with their bare hands would have to make sure that everything in Ukraine went like clockwork.
She explained to her students that even if they would repair cars or work in a field to make a living, it was important to realize the big picture in which they were contributing to the brighter future of all of Ukraine. Hanna believes that even a small person can make a big change as long as he or she has endless inner strength and a clear understanding of what is at stake. Now she is proving her point with her own actions. From now on — translation of the direct speech of Hanna from Ukrainian.
“Why bother? Melitopol is already in Russia!”
The occupiers are arresting principles of educational institutions who refuse to go to work on the 4th of April (according to Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of Melitopol, the occupiers force the educators to restart the educational process in the Russian language according to the “strange curriculum” as soon as possible, — ed. note). People who have common sense — educators — understand that they are in Ukraine and that if they go to work, they will betray their country.
I will never teach under the Russian flag. Never. There are many people like me. However, there are people who have dreamt about joining Russia for a long time. The Russian tricolor has been hanging on the building of the women’s colony since the first days of the war. My neighbor has supported Russia for ages. He says: “Why bother? Melitopol is already in Russia!”
“We only have access to the Rashist television and radio”
Together with other pro-Ukrainian people, me and my daughter continue to gather in the park, despite the circumstances. It is dangerous, but we need to get the news at least somewhere. We do not have access to any news. We can only watch Rashist TV channels and listen to the Rashist radio. We have tried everything (to restore the connection — ed. note). We even tried to insert the wires by hand somehow.
Sometimes the occupiers give us the Internet — just for a moment. Then we get in contact with a girl from the village nearby. She reads us the news. This happens once every 3 or 4 days. I just don’t have enough words to talk about it…
What will happen if the Crimean Internet is extended here? I don’t even want to imagine. I don’t even know how the wired Internet sometimes breaks through. There is no wireless connection at all. I cannot pay my phone bills — that is why I ask people to call me on Messenger. How can I pay them if there is no connection at all?
“I don’t know how we will survive if this happens”
ATMs have not worked since the 24th of February (the first day of the invasion, — ed. note). We buy cash from currency dealers for 20% of its value. However, even those people are now gone. It is clear that soon there will be nowhere to take cash. I don’t know how we will survive if this happens.
Humanitarian corridors are not an option as of now. The Rashists record everything and check everything on people’s phones. Men are captured on the streets and then sent to the occupier’s troops. Unfortunately, it is impossible to photograph it because we leave our phones at home. I know that it is important that there is confirmation of crimes but all these facts are out there — people talk and write about them.
“Where there is Ukraine, there is Melitopol”
Melitopol must be saved. Because where there is Melitopol, there is Ukraine. Where there is Ukraine, there is Melitopol. We have everything in order with those cereals, with the food. This is the last thing on my mind. What worries me — and it is difficult for me to listen, to see, to realize — is that in my town there are a lot of collaborators and separatists.
It is easy to love Ukraine where there is no doubt about Ukraine. But it is much harder to love Ukraine in places where such love was not taught in early childhood, where people say “Russia? Then be it”, where men are happy that factories might finally get back to work so that some iron details would be sold to Russia “like before the independence”.
“Where a teacher and a priest lose, the enemy wins”
I believe in our President. He is young and patriotic. He says that he won’t leave any Ukrainians behind. I am not afraid if they (the occupiers — ed. note) will come for me. I have already prepared everything I would say to them. My passport says “Ukraine”, I am a Ukrainian by birth. I am not afraid if they take me, shoot me, and whatnot.
Why do I have a photo of a tree growing through the iron posted on my Facebook page? Because no matter how much they intimidate us, no matter how much they boast of their weapons, for us it is still Ukraine here.
I do not understand (starts crying — ed. note) how could it be possible that a Ukrainian by birth might say: “It is good that Russia has come. There will be jobs”.
I also have many questions for our politicians. I will ask them after the victory. But everything that has been done lately with the national-patriotic education which is the backbone of everything… I can’t even wrap my head around it. I know how it is done in the west of Ukraine and how it is done here. Where a teacher and a priest lose, the enemy wins. That’s not what I said, that’s what Bismarck said.
I don’t know when it will end.
But I beg you: make sure Melitopol is not forgotten.
Recorded by Anhelina Hrytsei