The town of Kurakowa is about 15km off the front lines. It’s within range of heavy and rocket artillery. Most nights, you can hear the low rumble of shelling from the Russian-led separatists and the Ukrainian Army. Between the fighting and the buildings damaged from fighting in 2014, it's impossible to forget that war is close by…
A war that could spill out without warning and without distinguishing between soldiers and civilians. Nevertheless, Kurakowa is the first relatively “safe” town behind the front-line battlefield of Marinka. Since 2015, Marinka has been one of the most heavily-engaged towns on the Ukrainian front lines, and has been featured in reporting by Mortales’ Director of International Projects Nolan Peterson as well as featured heavily in a report researched and written by Mortales Ambassador Adrian Bonenberger. Kurakowa has a hotel, a supermarket, a few overpriced gas stations, and no working ATMs. Basic services like gas and water work, but electricity is expensive considering that many pensioners receive 1200-1800 Hryvnia, between $50 and $70 per month.
Kurakowa is the first port of call away from the direct fighting, and the place where the poorest, oldest, most fragile refugees end up because they can’t get any further away. Living in Kurakowa is uncomfortable—in many cases, as uncomfortable as it is to live in places like Marinka. It’s dangerous in the wintertime. Still, living in Kurakowa is less dangerous than living in Marinka or Krasnohorivka and waiting to be shelled or shot, or worrying about stepping on a mine or tripping a booby trap. These refugees people have lived through the totalitarian oppression of the Soviet Union, the oldest of whom had actually endured both Hitler's Nazis and Stalin’s USSR. These refugees have witnessed some of the most horrifying, outrageous crimes against humanity in human history—crimes that have become analogies for pure evil. And they’re spending their twilight years hiding from a war they didn’t choose.
During the fighting to retake territory in the ATO in 2014, Ukraine encountered stiff resistance outside the town . During the confused back-and-forth fighting, separatists destroyed the only regional Ukrainian TV tower in the region.
The only television and information sources available to most people living in the town were Russian. This has had the unfortunate consequence that people in the area have been fed a steady diet of pro-Russian, anti-American, conspiracy-theory heavy propaganda since 2014. The thrust of this propaganda is not to trust their own government, and not to trust western aid groups.
Mortales stays out of politics—it doesn’t get into international sphere of “we should use the phrase “IDP” and not “refugee,” or “it’s not a war, it’s a conflict.” To us, the question is simply one of basic rights to choose information sources.In a war defined as much by perception over who’s funding and fighting it as the actual shells exploding, the notion that the people affected most by it should have their ideas distorted by unscrupulous enemies is intolerable.
These are our European cousins, the ones whose parents didn’t escape war in 1917, or in 1941, or in 1991, or in 2014. They are Holodomor and Holocaust survivors, and their children. They lack many basic conveniences of modern life like potable drinking water, cookware, affordable heating and access to open news sources.
The Mortales team, through the help of our generous donors, was able to provide much needed cooking supplies, crockery from a local factory, a television, internet access, and to equip the refugee center with cable television providing access to reliable news sources. We do not seek to limit their options, we seek to expand them. It will allow the refugees to enjoy entertainment such as sports and movies, and exit the terrible conditions in which they’re forced to live while the war rages nearby.