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    Posted December 31, 2014 by
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    New Year Eve in War Zone


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     As 2014 comes to a close, not everyone is happy and celebrating. Maia Mikhaluk spent several days in December in eastern Ukraine. "People, especially in Peski, a town totally ruined by war, kept saying that life goes on," Mikhaluk said. "Life is very hard, when bombs are falling on the streets of your town non-stop, when there is no water, electricity, heat, food. But people are determined to survive. Their only wish for 2015 is for peace."

    Mikhaluk has been traveling to eastern Ukraine every few weeks for the past couple of months to help people living in the war-torn area.
    - zdan, CNN iReport producer

    In Ukraine New Year is one of the most important holidays of the year. People invite friends for an all-night feasting, kids are happy with abundance of gifts, companies have corporate celebrations for their employees, shopping malls are busier than ever, music, Christmas lights and decorations are everywhere! We always look forward to this special time of celebration. This year the appearance of celebration is there, but awareness of war torturing part of our country is looming as a big shadow over all our New Year Eve preparations.

    Volunteers of Wings of Generosity and Care group just returned from war zone. We tried to bring smiles on kids’ faces by conducting Christmas/New Year programs in school and kindergarten. In Maryinka, a town in Eastern Ukraine, that is being regularly bombed from separatists’ controlled Donetsk, there are still a lot of kids who were not evacuated. More than 400 kids came to our program. The smiles were rare. Serioiusness and sadness seem to be carved in this little faces.

    After giving away gifts to kids we took food packages to the elderly of Maryinka. Many people here are in the mode of survival, with no heat, problems with water and electricity, shortage of food. It was heartbreaking to see the tears of loneliness and despair. These people are seeing the second war in their life. This one seems more cruel as we are attacked by a country that we always considered friendly.

    Our last stop was in Peski, a small town that once had population of 3000, now reduced to 137. Hardly any buildings are not damaged by bombings. People are preparing to celebrate New Year in the basements where they have moved in to hide from constant shelling.

    Ludmila, one of the dwellers of a basement, asked us to videotape her greetings to her kids who lived in other parts of Ukraine. She assured them that she and her husband were fine, that they had food and they were not cold, that they were going to have their own New Year party. In this dark, lit only by our flashlight, cold basement, Christmas tree seemed as surreal as the words of Ludmila, “we are fine, don’t worry about us”. Meanwhile outside an artillery attack shook the long-suffering ground of Peski once again…

    Happy New Year, Ukraine! May 2015 bring peace and healing to our land!

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