“Old people are like personas non grata“

A. (via Liudmyla), Mykolaiv region, 02.07.2022

“Old people are like personas non grata“

The 93-year-old A. is asking not to state her full name, because she has relatives in Russia. She is worried that she may be accused of spreading the propaganda in favor of the occupiers, or in something else.

But in fact, there is no propaganda here at all. This is just a person who is used to telling the truth, at least because she had worked in Mykolaiv city newspapers for decades. She is known in [...] and is the oldest veteran of the journalist profession who currently resides in Mykolaiv region.

I found out that the war had begun from the media, - says this veteran. – This thing is that I live alone, and my hearing is bad, so on the first day of the war, I just could not hear the explosions, although the city was being shelled already in the morning of February 24th. I cannot hear well, but therefore I do not get as scared as others when bombings start. On the other hand, sometimes at night, I see the fiery explosions of the missiles that are bombing the city, together with all my other neighbours.

After the war started, printed press stopped being published regularly in [...], and this is a terrible inconvenience for older people. We do not know anything that is going on now: what kind of weather is expected tomorrow, what is going on in the city, which services operate at the moment, and which do not, and what we should expect at all…

Local newspapers have been a “reference bureau” for the old people for decades. One could call there from a landline phone with their problems and questions. But now we do not have such an opportunity. Newspapers are not published, this is why we are left without official, or any kind of reliable local information. Newspaper columns for us old people are not replaced with rumors heard somewhere in the line to get water or farmers milk, like “one old woman told another.” This is not good, because during the war, informational security of the country is challenged. Doesn’t the local government understand this?

During World War 2 I lived in Russia, in the frontline zone and I remember those times very well, because I was a teenager. At that time, there were many newspapers, this was the main source of official information, and more so, of propaganda! Besides that, radio stations were working the whole time, in the places where people would gather, radios were installed. And today we are old and may not hear what someone says on radio or TV, and we do not have the internet. This is why we very much need regularly printed newspapers. But they are not being published!

In general, old people are like personas non grata. No one really takes care of them. We do not get any official information. And the modern call-centers and auto respondents only irritate us as we cannot make out what they are saying. For example, I need to request a doctor to visit me or go see one myself. I call and someone quickly mumbles something into the phone and then hangs up. You do not have the time to understand what they told you, what you should do next, where and whom exactly you should go to?

You call gas services – there is an auto respondent, water utility services – auto respondent, it is impossible to even reach the regional energy services to give them the numbers from the counter [a tool that counts how much energy was used in the household over a period of time].

I remember the winter of 1941-42. It was a very hard and cold one. The plumbing system was not working, and we had to pull water from afar to our place on the fourth floor. But that is not even the worst! The sewage system wasn’t working either, so people would throw out all of the household and fecal waste outside near the buildings. And in the spring all of that melted. That was such a “thaw” …

In [...], after the water supply station [...] was broken with the use of explosives, the water supply disappeared in the 12th of April, but at least the sewage system kept working fine. But as for the water, that was a horror. At first, I would my water for everyday use in the [...] River. I would go down to the riverbank and then would walk in almost knee deep to get cleaner water. It’s good that I still had my rubber boots, which I got half a century ago, I would bend over and get some water with a scoop. And then I would put two 7-liter containers on a “kravchuchka” [a trolley bag] and drag it uphill, I carry it to my place on the fourth floor. This damned fourth floor again, just like 80 years ago!

We started to indeed appreciate drinking water. It became more valuable to me than wine or oil. We stopped making borshcht – because it requires a lot of water – or inviting neighbors for tea. Although there are not many neighbors left – people have evacuated, our section in the apartment building is half empty.

Yet the alienation among the people started to fade away. Sometimes a neighbor would help me to carry water, sometimes a young soldier or a former colleague with a car would bring drinking water and carry it to my place. Then the drinking water distribution stations appeared, there were kiosks where they were selling water for 1.5-2 hryvnias per liter. Finally, running water appeared. Even though it was only technical water, it is very salty, but at least it was possible to wash yourself without a problem, wash the dishes, do the laundry, and, sorry for the details, flush the toilet.

People got kinder after some time, they started supporting each other, especially the older neighbors. But the [...] residents still do not want to go outside without a need, because there are air-raid sirens all the time, and any stroll outside is dangerous: what if there is a shelling?

God, how many people have died already! When will this end?! I had no idea that I would have to live through the same thing I lived through in my teenage years during World War 2…