War through the eyes of refugees: Irina from Donetsk

Interview with Irina (32) from Donetsk. Occupation: Lawyer, criminologist. Single.

Interview was conducted in mid April 2015 in Odessa, Ukraine. Its transcript is based on audio recordings. All statements therein are from the people interviewed, of course we cannot guarantee their factual accuracy. The intention of publishing these interviews with refugees is to give people who are directly affected by the conflict in Ukraine a voice. (link to Russian version)

Q. Tell us about the events that took place prior to your departure.

A. I decided to leave after I had received two bullet wounds and 34 splinters in the legs. [She shows traces of wounds. Both bullets went through.]

Q. What exactly happened?

A. The militia of the DNR fired at my apartment. On March 3, 2015, my neighbour, a former drug addict who had served for this eight years in jail, opened fire on four apartments including mine while heavily drunk. All his actions were recorded by surveillance cameras which are installed in our apartment house.

Q. What prompted him to these actions?

A. Only that he was a member of the militia.

Q. Could he have had any personal grudge against you?

A. There was no grudge. He did not only open fire on my apartment.

Q. Were there any claims from him towards you?

A. No claims. He did it because he had an automatic gun in his hand. I have all the confirming documents [medical report] about my injuries.

Q. Who gave you these documents?

A. The emergency assistance. I went to the hospital, and I also received a report of the forensic medical examination. This is a standard form documents. [15 min later she shows it to us and allowed us to take pictures].

Q. Did you complain about the militia-man?

A. Of course! I went to the general prosecutor’s office, but they told me that he belongs to Zakharchenko [the head of the DNR] and no one will want to deal with it. In our house is a camera, if one only wanted to, one could deal with this crime and apprehend him, but because he was a man of Zakharchenko, nobody wanted to investigate this crime.


Irina’s medical documents


“I was fired at, and then told that no one will investigate this crime.”


“My whole story is this!”

Q. When did you leave Donetsk?

A. On March 19, 2015.

Q. When did you decide to leave?

A. After I was fired at, and then told that no one will investigate this crime. I feared for my life, that is why I decided to leave!

Q. How long did your journey take and for what reason did you come to Odessa?

A. Friends brought me to Dnepropetrovsk by car, and from Dnepropetrovsk I came to Odessa.


“I just want people to understand that nobody investigates the crimes of the militia.”

Q. You passed through checkpoints. Were there any difficulties?

A. We passed seven checkpoints, and there were no problems. I had a pass.

Q. What kind of pass was that?

A. A pass – the document that allows one to go to Ukraine. I bought it for money.

Q. Who sells the document?

A. I cannot tell you this.

Q. How much did it cost?

A. 800 UAH.

Q. Did you drive on your own from Donetsk to Dnepropetrovsk?

A. With a friend.

Q. Is there someone among your loved ones who stayed in Donetsk?

A. Only my mom.

Q. Do you think the day will come when you will be able to go back to Donetsk?

A. I can go back to Donetsk any time. I have a Donetsk residence permit in the passport and that pass. They let us in with the pass, if there is a Donetsk permit they let us out.

Q. What changes need to happen for you to get back to Donetsk? What are your plans for the near future?

A. I arrived in Odessa, rented a flat, work. I would love to go back to Donetsk. There remains my mom, my property. I am very worried for my mother.

Q. Do you call your mom?

A. Yes, regularly! As for my plans, they are constrained by my life in Odessa, although I intend to travel regularly back home in Donetsk.

Q. Maybe you have something else to tell that we have not touched on in the conversation?

A. My whole story is this! [shows to documents about her injury]. I just want people to understand that nobody investigates the crimes of the militia, and my case is an example of this. [she shows once again the documents and wounds]

Q. Do you have any difficulties here [in Odessa] with work or the attitude of local residents?

A. No! I have a job here and income, and no problems with the locals – not at all. Besides my friends live here with whom I went to university. They are always ready to help me with anything.

Thank you!

translated from the Russian by Zaldizale