A tiny, for several dozen houses, village of Horihuvatka, Sloviansk Raion, was lost among the expanses of the Donetsk ridge dissected along and across with ravines and beams. An inconspicuous settlement actually plays an important role in the infrastructure of the Donbas region. The vital waterway, a strategic object, namely the channel “Siverskyi Donets – Donbas”, supplying water to half of the region, almost goes through the village.
There is no work in the village. Indeed. A few residents either go to the raion center, or to the neighbouring town of power engineers Mykolaivka. And only very few risk making a living from agriculture. It is unprofitable. When you look at the scorched, gray-red from the vegetation of the field and the beam faded under the scorching sun, you believe in it willingly.
Serhii Tarasenko is one of such villagers. A native of Horihuvatka, he tried to make a living in different ways – he went to the city and worked as a driver. But in the end, he began to engage in agriculture.
“I inherited a little more than four hectares of land from my grandmother. I don’t have my own equipment, so I hire the ploughing, sowing and harvesting equipment,” says Serhii. “I sow my land with grain to feed the farm – we have four cows, calves and pigs. We live thanks to this. It’s tough. It happens that you take milk to the market in the morning, and in the evening you bring it back, because they did not buy it.”
Serhii is engaged in farming together with his wife. They have three children. One daughter is already adult and lives separately. The second daughter is a student, graduated from a college and entered a university. And the son moved to the second grade. So, there is someone to earn for.
In 2014, the war made its adjustments to Serhii’s uneasy life.
“We sowed the land, but we did not manage to harvest it,” he recalls. “Right before the harvest time, fierce battles were in progress in our area. And in early July, the separatists were pushed away. I remember how they moved using heavy machinery through our fields, and then our tanks moved.”
When the contact line moved away from Horihuvatka at a more or less safe distance, the local farmers and small landowners decided to harvest at least something that remained on the fields.
“When I entered the field and I immediately stepped on a mine. Well, it’s good that it was an anti-tank one; it did not trigger under my weight,” says Serhii. “The combine driver, surely, did not dare to drive into the land plot; they walked, looked and found another 6 mines. I went to our soldiers, they were standing nearby. But they didn’t have professional sappers. I called the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the police – no one came. Then, near Sloviansk, I found professional sappers from the city of Dnipro and brought them here. They found another 8 mines, some parts of the shells of “Grad” and something else.”
After that, Seri’s land was not used for two and a half years. Everything is ditched’ a field ploughed up with tanks and heavy machinery, and besides, it has not been completely cleared of mines. No local tractor drivers wanted to plough or sow for any remuneration. Though, there was no money. Without grain, you cannot feed a large farm and, accordingly, you cannot earn.
The rescue came unexpectedly. Maybe it helped that he left his phone number in all instances. But once Serhii received a call from representatives of the HALO Trust, an international organization that deals with humanitarian demining for the EU money. They called, and then arrived.
“I showed them the territories where my share is located, other fields; I think, let them be doing their job. I didn’t care anymore, I didn’t believe in anything,” recalls Serhii. “And they set to work. They worked for a long time. And not only on my land plot, but throughout the whole territory, in all fields up to Kryva Luka, which is near Lyman, and this is a huge territory. They cleared everything. The even gave us the documents, namely official documents with the logo and seal of the HALO Trust. They said that we could work now on the land.”
Last year, in autumn, for the first time after two and a half years of standstill of the land, Serhii sowed it with winter barley. He sowed spring wheat in spring. This year, he has his first harvest after a forced break.
“I don’t know how things will go, but I feel that it will be very difficult,” he says. “But we would be completely lost without land.” I thank the HALO Trust deminers for returning the land to us.
By Dmytro Lukianenko
The article was originally published on Ostro.org