Non-frontline Stryi

11 Жовтня 2022, 09:18

Stryi is an old city, modest in size, in the west of Ukraine, 70 kilometers from Lviv, with a boulder monument in the railway station alley erected in 1985 on the occasion of the 600th anniversary of its foundation. There are tiny streets, although without cobblestones, and not far from the city the mountain river Stryi flows. And the city is also the birthplace of Stepan Bandera’s father, whose family still has a cozy estate museum there.

Stryi is one of the points on the map of our country, which became a temporary shelter for refugees from all over Ukraine. Mostly those who decided not to go abroad, but to stay away from Lviv. It is said, by the way, that when the war broke out, some enterprising Lviv residents themselves moved to the neighboring towns in order to rent out their apartments at the highest price possible to newcomers of the region. And, sure, there were many among the newcomers who could afford to rent expensive apartments in the regional center. Considering also the fact that all nearby resort towns (Morshyn, Stebnyk, Truskavets, etc.) are simply overcrowded with forced vacationers.

Stryi was not immune to that tendency as well, but there were crowds of refugees only in the spring.  Everything gives non-residents away, and not only language, but even clothes, gait and habits. And while speaking, first of all, intonation and tempo. When I speak Ukrainian, the locals immediately see that I am not from there, because ignorance of dialect words is obvious. The most noticeable difference that can be heard is their stress on the penultimate syllable in verbs («bèru» (take) instead of «berooh» in standard Ukrainian, «nèsu» (carry) instead of «nesooh»). At the beginning of March, the residents were very suspicious of those who spoke differently and, God forbid, Russian («the language of the invaders») and did not miss the opportunity to inform those «whom it may concern», however, later the degree of vigilance decreased, and the city got used to the influx of strangers who are here as a rule derogatory called «Muscovites» behind their backs.

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Additionally, to confusion in eyes «internally displaced persons» are given away by desire to get in time at all points of delivery of humanitarian and monetary aids (which are constantly changing their location and schedule). Observing them while waiting in line, probably, provides you with an invaluable opportunity to conduct any sociological survey. The material for which is limitless: from conversation topics to behavior. For example, under these circumstances, many people begin to show not the best character traits due to the stress and panic they have experienced, and therefore they greedily pounce on everything that is given out and hoard more than they need. This especially applies to clothes and hygiene products that people seem hoard for generations to come. The chaotic unrest at the IDP aid centers was just at the beginning though, when people were able to come several times a week and take aid for more than one person. Later, it got controlled more carefully and food packages were issued at certain intervals, although for diapers and blankets (the latter, like shoes, are the most valuable), such restrictions were not introduced.

At first, by the way, it is especially puzzling (and annoying) when refugees in luxurious cars come to pick up a package of pearl barley, canned stew meat and anchovies in tomato, but later you get used to the idea that, probably, their car may be the only valuable thing left.

After February 24, Stryi, like many other settlements, turned into a city of contrasts. And you somehow involuntarily notice the differences with your small homeland. For example, one gets the impression that there are a great many of dog owners among the local residents, because you can observe these animals and, say tolerantly, traces of their living in a great number all over the city. Everything is relative, so in the city center, not to mention the outskirts, you feel a lack of wastebins, and therefore you can walk quite a distance with a piece of paper or a wrapper, if you don’t want to add to the amount of trash blown by the wind. Or the habit of stopping for several minutes in the middle of the sidewalk to talk loudly about life-being is also surprising. In general, it seems that people there speak louder, and when you prick up ears, the city’s chords sometimes blend very phantasmagorically. For instance, you can simultaneously hear monotonous din in the church, and next to it — monotonous obscenities in the school stadium. By the way, young people have long been implementing the political slogan «East and West united»: cigarettes, smartphones, low-alcohol drinks, a standard all-Ukrainian set of dirty words. City boys and girls all over Ukraine, in my opinion, are about the same and have common tastes (I won’t even start whining about what I think about them). But here, in the west of Ukraine, it is especially comical to watch when a teenager stops his conversation, interspersed with profanity, for a moment to make a sign of the cross seeing another Crusifix or Virgin Mary. And then he goes on chatterring as before.

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Every city is primarily people, interesting, unforgettable. In particular, wonderful volunteers. Teachers, who in their free time from their main work, distribute humanitarian aid. Or guys, who are willing to give their last garment to those who need it, and also drive pickup trucks from Europe to the front themselves, not wanting to get involved in routine of the city council’s sluggish bureaucratic machine. Or doctors in a private clinic, who do not take money from refugees.

Though, Stryi is so far from the war, the latter reminds of itself not only with alarm signals. Almost every day there is news, or even not one, about the deaths of Stryi residents at the front, and later the bodies of the heroes are carried along the central street to pay last respects and mourn. And it is quite logical that such visible and sad losses make ordinary locals think that only soldiers from the west of Ukraine die in our war. I have repeatedly heard: our boys are dying for your East / South. And on a comment that guys from all regions die for our independence, they just shrug their shoulders: maybe, but there are fewer of yours, we don’t know that, but we know for sure about ours.

Here they say that everything is at stone’s throw in Stryi, but only Lviv and prospects are far away. And these prospects of all of us, from different parts of Ukraine, are only optimistic, because they are warmed by faith in our victory.