Maria points to her house shredded by shrapnel, torn apart by shelling. She has a basement, and like many locals she runs downstairs to flee the fighting. 90% of her village (Opytnoye) are pensioners.

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Lost and forgotten

One observation made when navigating Ukraine's Donbas region is that a large number of elderly remain in the line of contact (zone of fighting).


They choose to stay for many reasons regardless of dangers posed by the conflict.

During winter months it is difficult for the army to locate opposition fighters due to poor visibility. This poses a bigger threat to civilians on both sides alike.

Constant attacks from opposition forces see stray bullets and shrapnel hit civilians and buildings. 

Infrastructure is beyond repair and people are suffering greatly from lack of administrative assistance and basic medical care.

Attacks near the line of demarcation can occur at anytime and snipers operate from long range.

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Lebedev and family have dinner, while outside fighting with heavy artillery pounds the village. Through all the fighting they attempt to retain a sense of normality in routine.

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Coal mines are the biggest source of income for locals living in Donbas, although the work is in short supply. Anyone able to land a job will earn 7,000UAH (approximately 178GBP). Though there are health risks that come with the work.

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Miners emerge from a long 6 hour shift at 11am in the morning. They continue to work despite the constant of fighting between the Ukrainian armed forces and separatists.

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Black soot dyes a fresh blanket of snow illustrating the dangers that lurk below for workers.

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Temperatures in Donbas can hit as low as -20 Celsius 
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Nadezha chose to remain in the village of Opytnoye near the city of Donetsk's airport. Her village continues to be targeted though she stays looking after her neighbour's pets.

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Animals play a pivotal role for civilians and army, They guard property and soldiers believe they sense danger
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Work can be dangerous, especially during winter months.

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Children make their way to school and at any time of the day disregarding warnings by the army

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A school surrounded by a metal enforced wooden shield protects children at sitting height from shelling and shrapnel.

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Soldier's guard a checkpoint near Tohskivka.

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Those who leave Donbas risk being placed in camps with little to no relatives outside of the region....
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...or staying behind with limited help.

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Landmines are present everywhere and during the winter months cause more accidents than any other time of the year.

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Locals drink tea at a local aid distribution office


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Surrounded by jellies, jams and pickled vegetables, Telichko routinely makes her way to a basement each night before fighting begins. She suffers from diabetes due to stress and lives with shrapnel near her heart. Doctors are unable to remove it due to its proximity.
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The situation is unpredictable as fighting can break out at any moment.

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A lone rail-track to Kharkiv, the largest, closest city to the frontlines.

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