Melitopol is a small city in south-eastern Ukraine, was one of the first to fall to the Russians. In this blog, a teacher, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, recounts what life is like under occupation.
30th March 2022
Occupation is pressure.
Occupation is the destruction of you as an individual
Occupation is the deprivation of rights and freedoms
But there are no such words in the dictionary of Russians
That’s why they are here
Occupying our Ukraine
The Occupation and the City
I am often asked about safety by my friends. Am I safe or not? It’s hard to say how safe you can be in the occupied city of Melitopol. I want to tell you how our city lives or survives these days.
The schools are down. No one can guarantee the safety of children. Remote learning, due to lack of or partial connection to the internet, creates problems. Students are being forced to restart their studies on 1st April 2022 with Russian educational programmes. But even so, how can children study in an occupied city under shelling? Simply, they cannot.
Of course, no-one is working properly as a teacher nowadays. We are just monitoring children queuing up at school to make sure there is order, routine, a place for kids to go to. The Russian occupiers have informed head teachers about the opening of schools from April 1. They talk about their high mission – to set us free, about the best of times to come.
“I really love my school – a place of strength, joy, delight. But now, we are forced to choose: cooperation with Russian Occupiers or violation of the law on non-collaboration, unemployment and exit. Many people have lost their jobs, business.”
There have been no Ukrainian television stations reaching Melitopol for quite some time. Only the Russian ones.
“I already really miss my native language, my favourite TV channels. I only watch the news on social networks. Not all residents have access to social networks. Therefore, we have a hunger for information. Imagine what we hear on Russian television! All the invaders have already achieved victory – apparently.”
And in the last two days in the city, there has been a complete communications black out – no internet connection at all.
Protests and rallies are prohibited in the city. People, public figures, public servants, media workers disappear. Some were released, we heard. But people do not return to the city. We don’t know where they are. The Occupiers are direct threat to life in Melitopol. People are arrests and charged with alleged cries. The Head of the Education Management in Melitopol, Irina Shcherbak, was charged and arrested for refusing to cooperate and open schools. Such events do not appear in the media.
Our mayor Ivan Fedorov was arrested by the Russian Occupiers and held for 6 days. During this time, in the city, the flag of Ukraine was removed and a new mayor was installed who openly cooperates with the occupants.
People have big problems with obtaining cash. There are huge queues in the banks. People start queuing from 4 – 6 am every day. There are public activists near every bank who try to help manage the queues. They record everyone who arrives, and then a queue is formed and counted. The numbers mount. Cash can be exchanged but only with high rates interest. How can people buy essentials?
Most stores are down. Cash points are closed all over the city. A lot of little local shops still trade but there’s no cash and prices are pretty high. Local producers of bread and dairy products are very helpful. Our mayor Ivan Fedorov agreed on humanitarian aid, but the Occupiers surrounded the aid packages and forbade the donors to give them to people. This was an order. Non-compliance, a threat to life. The Russian Occupants are also distributing humanitarian aid. They drive around the city and announce on loudspeakers where exactly they will issue goods.
“It’s just like a war movie.“
Who wants help from Russians? But people must eat.
Our beautiful city is now dirty. Our roads are broken by enemy military technology convoys that pass through the city every day. A lot of military personnel pass through too.
“The Russian Occupiers have captured all local strategic targets. Our House of Culture for example, is now occupied. There is a new power now in the city. Walking around, one sees invaders everywhere. Only Russian songs in the Park of Rest – the cemetery.”
Minibuses are racing around. Explosions are constantly heard. There is damage to homes. Many people are left without homes.
“Many left, many left Melitopol. It is very painful to leave famil,y home, loved ones, friends, dogs and cats.”