Auslander reports from Crimea:
Today after Church we went to a facility that is housing some of the children and women from Slavyansk. The group consisted of Father and his wife, a senior Navy officer and his wife and we two. The officer had informed the facility of the time of our arrival and who was in the group.
I will not give the name or location of the facility beyond it is one of very many old Soviet holiday sights lining the Krim coast from north of Kerch on the east coast all the way around the peninsula to above Yevpatoria on the west coast. This facility, like many of them, was renovated in the last few years and is quite nice and clean as a whistle. The evacuees housed there are not crowded together by any stretch of the imagination and there will be more evacuees housed there in the next few days.
Security is tight and I’ll leave it at that. The beach is beautiful, sand and very clean, the water shallow out to about 50 m from the gentle surf. As with almost all of these facilities there are extensive athletic grounds including a regulation football field. Nature trails are extant in the facility also. By the by, there are no sharks in the Black Sea and no tide, ergo swimming is safe for the children.
The housing facilities on sight are excellent, again clean almost to an extreme with substantial food preparation areas and a more than adequate dining area. The kitchen is spotless and as usual the staff are local women for the cooking and serving and in house cleaning. Local men do the grounds maintenance and cleaning. An efficient administration is in place and the usual on sight medical support has excellent rooms and modern equipment. Bath and toilet facilities are also spotless and modern, segregated to men at one end of the hallways and women at the other. All toiletries are provided as are soap, towels and washing pads in abundance. No photos are allowed.
The number of evacuees at the facility are let’s just say over 100. No men came from Slavyansk with this group. The ages of the group range from two almost brand new babies to late teenagers with a relatively small percentage of adult women, a few the mothers of some of the younger children and of course the mothers of the two babies. All will have a medical examination starting tomorrow.
The adult women are holding up well. All are distraught to one extent or another but all are functioning well with the children. We met with two groups of the women in private and their distress was quite visible when out of sight of the children. They are all very thankful to Russia for taking the children from harm’s way. The evacuees run the gamut from upper middle class to quite poor.
Children are children. They are quite different here than in The West even though some of them try to mimic what they see on TV and the Internet from the west. It is in the eyes of the teenagers, especially the girls, where you can see the worry and fear just below the surface. The teenaged girls are working with the children, relatives or not, alongside of the adult women. The boys, some are worried, most are angry at the events in and around Slavyansk and their inability to do something about them. The boys are, after all, young men and the will to protect their families and their homes is already ingrained in them. There is adequate staff to assist the women with the children and keep the teenagers in line.
It is in the young children, the under 10 year olds, that the innocence yet reality comes through as you talk to them. After all, here is a group of children and teenagers who have seen far more than they should have at their tender ages and suddenly they are in another country in a heavily guarded facility and here are strangers including a foreigner in their midst. Some of the teenagers and younger children speak some English and more than one teenager was quite fluent in English, one so fluent she relieved my wife from translating for a while. Some of the children’s comments, through the translators:
“It was hot that night, we had the windows open. The sounds were loud. There was a very loud noise on a car in front of our building. There was hail hitting our flat. There was fire outside, I could see it on the wall. My window was broken. My mother was afraid. My father was angry.” 9 year old girl.
“A bomb fell near our flat. It was a small one, not the big ones. The sound is different. I am not afraid of the little ones but cats are afraid. We know when the little ones are coming because the cats run away. We hide when they run away.” 7 year old girl.
“My neighbor’s dog was killed that night. My neighbor, she cries all the time now. My mother said I have to leave home.” 10 year old boy.
She looked at the scars on my arm and touched them, then pulled up my left shirt sleeve and looked. How she knew I don’t know, the tattoo is 5cm above blousing level as per regs. “You are foreign.” “Yes.” “You are soldier.” “I was.” “Did you come here to kill me?” Asked matter of fact. Mother of God. How do you answer that? “No, I am not here to hurt you, I am here to help you and to keep you safe” in my very poor Russian. 10 year old girl. My teenaged translator dissolved in to tears. The child comforted her.
“I want to kill all those fascist pedarasti. My mother is afraid. My father is fighting. My father said I could not come with him, I don’t know why. I am a man.” 15 year old boy.
“I miss my boyfriend. He could not come, there was no more room on the bus. He kissed my before I got on the bus, right in front of my mother. I love him. I miss my mother. I want to go home.” 14 year old girl.
“I miss my mother. I miss my father. I want to go home. Mother said I can’t come home soon.” 12 year old girl.
“They killed my neighbor. He was a kind man, he never hurt anyone. I was the first one to him after he fell off his bicycle. There was a lot of blood. He was dead. His wife was screaming. He took me fishing.” 15 year old boy.
“It is so quiet here. There is no noise at all. I wish my mother and father were here with me. My mother likes to swim.” 6 year old boy.
After we spoke to the women and children we spoke to the administrator. She assured us the children and women had everything they needed. The officer’s wife asked about bathing suits for the children and dolls for the young girls.
We then had lunch with the evacuees. Lunch was excellent with plenty of food for the children, as much food, juice and milk as they wanted, fresh baked bread from the kitchen, gallons of tea for the adults. After lunch Father and I went to the only private shop in the facility, down by the beach. It sells bathing suits, shorts, sun tan oil, sun hats and other sundries for the beach. After we looked at the prices Father had a talk with the owner and an understanding was made. The children and women will get what they need for the beach at no charge to them. Father and I will split the bill and the prices will be normal market, not as marked. Father’s assistant and the officer’s wife will tomorrow get enough dolls for the young girls. All will be identical and will be delivered to the facility before dinner tomorrow by the officer’s wife and other officer wives. Father and I will split that bill also along with the officer. I got to watch Father, though. He’s pretty quick with a ruble….
When we returned the child who asked if I was there to kill her was my wife’s shadow. On seeing me she ran to me. Got me a big hug and a smooch right on the cheek. I looked at my wife, she looked at me and we smiled grimly. If worse comes to worse for this child we will take her. We pray it won’t come to that. She cried when we left. I told her we would be back in 2 days to see her and the other children. I asked her if she likes dogs. She said yes.
As of 15:54 today, 01 June 2014, no more evacuees are allowed to leave Slavyansk or Donetsk City. Ukraine Armed Forces have blockaded all the roads and rail lines out of both cities. No one is allowed in or out. There will be not be more children coming to this facility.
Donations are not needed at this time: all is being taken care of by Mother and locally. Under no circumstances should anybody send money to charities here or in Ukeland. There are a couple that are legitimate but there’s a lot of scams out there already. Figures, and totally disgusting.