What if this was your neighbourhood? If, between the billowing smoke, you spotted the ruins of the grocery store where you had shopped since you were a child? To which your mother would still send you with a list written in pencil on a piece of paper so you wouldn’t forget anything? Bachmut had more than 72,000 inhabitants before the war. Since it became a battlefield, it has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and thousands of civilians.
“Bachmut is burning. There’s nowhere to hide,” says Vitaly. “They evacuated us at the last minute. If we had hesitated, no one would have come back for us. There would have been no one to come back for.”
Vitaly is sitting on a bed, in a safe shelter in the Dnieper. Next to him is his wife, Tania. A bed and four walls that, apart from him, can’t accommodate much anymore. It is all they have. Confidence has vanished from both their faces. The year-old Danila sits on the man’s lap. The only reason why life is still worth living. She turned one year old on 14 April.
Recent photos from Bachmut dispel any illusions. The town, decorated with colourful murals, has ceased to exist. The attacks also destroyed a block of flats, on the façade of which a large painting depicted a happy mother lifting her daughter up. On the wall of a neighbouring building, a father, teaching his son to dream of flying. Bombs shattered the family in the painting and are tearing apart others like Vitaly and Tanya every day.
“What happened there, sir… ” says Vitaly in a hushed voice. He is afraid to hear his memories. As long as they stay hidden in his head, he can live somehow, but to put them into words is like scratching a wound with a knife. A tear runs down the man’s cheek. He can’t smile, even when he talks about his daughter. “We have nothing for her. The house, the field, everything we had earned was consumed by flames.
We are among people whose lives cannot be mended by the breakfasts, warm blankets and clothes you provide. But thanks to them, here, a few dozen kilometres from the front line, we can wait out the end of hell in peace and slowly begin to rebuild what the war destroyed.”
Help Vitaly, Tanya and little Danila. Fund meals for them and for those whom the Good Factory is helping to wait out the worst, in temporary locations in eastern Ukraine.