"They use the fourth generation of NATO night vision devices," another soldier told me. "Many mercenaries from Poland fought on the other side. We hear them speaking on the radio in Polish. Also many Georgians; we saw the Georgian flags."
As lunch break came to an end, Dmitry and I headed to Zaitsevo, with Gyurza, an officer in the DPR People's Militia.
We stopped in Zaitsevo town center, 800 meters from an NW front-line, and 1.5 km from the northern front-line.
She told me:
Here, we are not living, we're surviving. Those who could leave, have left. Those who remain are mostly elderly. The shelling began in 2014 and hasn't stopped till now. Six years of constant shelling. This morning at 6 a.m. there was a big blast [a 120 mm mortar (prohibited under Minsk) on a street where civilians still live, I later learn].
None of the ceasefire agreements (24 or 25) reached here. We've not had more than 1 or 2 days of ceasefire.
The town was roughly 3,500 people before. Now it's about half that, 1,600 including 200 children. There was a school, and a kindergarten before, but they were both destroyed by Ukrainian artillery. So now the children go to a district of Gorlovka. They are destroying the town street by street. They take one street and destroy it house by house. Then they turn to another street."
I asked about access to emergency care:
The paramedics don't go farther than this building; it's too dangerous to go further. If somebody needs medical care near the front lines, someone has to go in their own car and take them to a point where medics can then take them to Gorlovka. The soldiers also help civilians who are injured."
Dmitry added that Ukrainian forces have fired on medical and fire brigade vehicles. I asked if anyone had died as a result of not getting timely medical care. Irina replied: "A woman died due to huge blood loss because no one could reach her house to take her away in time. She was injured in the shelling and bled to death."
Irina said she didn't have a car at the time, but since then - during a time of war - she got her driver's license, and also took First Aid courses, to help people in case of an emergency, both medically and as a driver: "Every local leader has my number. If something happens, they call me."
Irina is often among the first to arrive at the scene of shelling, documenting the resulting damage. I mention video footage I saw recently of a burning house in the area. She replied that she had taken it. When I later went to that area, I saw that the house was only 500 meters from the front-line.
I asked her to describe a normal day in Zaitsevo:
At 7 a.m. most people go to work, schools, kindergartens. It is fairly calm through the afternoon. Around 5 or 6 p.m., the shelling begins and gets worse and worse throughout the night. The terror continues until around 6 a.m.
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).