Such an inscription is placed on official warning signs that mark minefields - and there are more and more of them in Ukraine! In September 2022, other volunteers and I visited the most remote towns and villages of the Kyiv region - we helped people who lost their homes due to the war.
Тhat`s how we ended up in Sloboda Kuharska, Vyshgorod district, where there used to be 138 houses, of which 38 were completely destroyed.
We settled in the yard of one family: an elderly mother and two adult daughters, we talked with them and their neighbors. In the process of work, we had to ask people a lot of questions and listen to their stories.
Here is the direct speech of one of the women:
“Recently, my sister and I went to pick cherries in a neighboring yard, where no one has been living for a long time, but this year the cherries have been good.
We were picking them when I suddenly noticed a mine on the ground, right next to my sister's leg - it's good that I was aware of how it might look like.
I quietly said to her:
- Stand still and don't move,
She was scared, but she obeyed me.
- Be careful, go straight to me and don't step aside.
We carefully escaped that place together.
Then we called the sappers, they took the mine away to detonate it far beyond the village. It exploded with such a noise that the windows of the surviving houses shook."
Then their old mother joined the conversation:
“A mine was found here, several pieces were found in neighboring yards, three pieces were lying on the ground on the way near the bus stop...
And God saved my girls - the fact that they noticed this terrible thing in the grass."
I wasn`t too lazy to walk 10 meters along the central asphalted street of the village and look at this place. An ordinary yard with an old house and low cherry trees, because of which two people almost lost their lives.
It is now just wrapped with a rope with red rags, as the pros say - this is a "homemade marking system."
Then I asked the people if the sappers checked the rest of the territories - gardens, yards, fields. The answer was "No", they only neutralized what was visible and what the locals pointed out.
This is understandable, nowdays they have a lot of work to do, and there is no time, resource or opportunity to check large areas.
But a very big and terrible problem remains with us, it lives near people, often takes their lives and keeps them in constant fear.
It turns out that there are:
- a garden with berries and fruits - but you can't go there, it's a threat to life!
- a forest with fallen trees that can be used for firewood to heat houses - don't go there either, because you can't.
- forest with mushrooms, but no - you can blow up.
- the vegetable garden, which must be cleaned now and planted again in the spring - it is also very dangerous there.
And what should those people do now? The people for whom the forest and the garden are the main means of physical existence?
Some official figures:
Ukraine is the most polluted by explosive substances country on the planet.
In 2014, we faced a military threat from Russia. Even before the start of the full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022, more than 700,000 hectares of land had been hit with explosives in the 8 years of war in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
And now the situation has worsened significantly.
Here we are talking not only about mines, but also about abandoned or unexploded ammunition and so on.
And there are hundreds of such villages in the Kyiv region, let alone forests, meadows and water bodies, which we also have in large numbers.
According to international statistics:
- one day of hostilities is one month for demining;
- year of war - 10 years for complete neutralization;
- a year of active hostilities - 20 years for complete clearance of explosives.
What does it mean?
That even if the war were to end tomorrow, it would take at least 100 years in some of our regions to recover the land from this plague!
What should we do?
My opinion is that it is necessary to actively get involved, teach people how to avoid danger, and engage as many professionals as possible to neutralize this whole threat.
We will win this war - we have no doubts about it. But our parents, children and ourselves need to live here today without a dread of leaving the house or yard.
So that they can safely dig in the garden and not be afraid to go into the forest or swim in the river, herd cattle and collect mushrooms or berries.
Of course, all this requires large resources and specially trained people, but I think we can find both.
We are Ukrainians!
Personally, I have been confused by this topic for a long time, since the first days of my return to Irpin, when there were more sapper cars around the city than taxi drivers once.
Every day we saw with our own eyes the work of these heroic people and heard the explosions of neutralized ammunition, often it was done right on the spot, because there was no other possibility.
But this is a city - there are much more people and opportunities, and in villages, forests, fields and reservoirs everything is much more difficult.
Driving along the highway, you may see many different signs on the roadsides and remember the lines from a recent song by Okean Elsa:
...Tears and concrete are trembling, The flowers of the minefields are blooming...
But eventually everything will be fine I want to do everything possible for this.
That's why I took up the task of teaching people about the dangers of mines.
To be continued.