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National Guard soldiers hoping for peaceful winter holidays in war zone

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A Ukrainian soldier walks to his dugout in a military redoubt near Novoaidar in Luhansk Oblast on Dec. 9.

NOVOAIDAR, Ukraine -- With the winter holidays approaching, soldiers of the National Guard defending a foothold in Luhansk Oblast are remembering their families, many of them in southern Ukraine, some 800 kilometers southwest in Mykolayiv Oblast.

NOVOAIDAR, Ukraine — With the winter holidays approaching, soldiers of the National Guard defending a foothold in Luhansk Oblast are remembering their families, many of them in southern Ukraine, some 800 kilometers southwest in Mykolayiv Oblast.

Two soldiers out of the group of eight will go for vacation before New Year’s Eve. The rest will celebrate the New Year and Christmas in their military tent, less than 100 kilometers from the Russian border and 800 kilometers east of Kyiv.

They are planning to decorate their humble abodes with pine branches, but they do not hide their uneasiness. They complain about being ill-equipped to fend off a Russian-led assault, but, mercifully, fighting hasn’t come to their way lately.

Dmytro Zubov, from Yuzhnoukrainsk of Mykolayiv Oblast, is one of the lucky ones.

He is preparing to see his family in a few days. Born in Russia and having many relatives there, Zubov says he lost most of the contacts when the Russia’s war against Ukraine began. Zubov volunteered to serve at the National Guard to make his wife stay at home. “She is a nurse, so she could have been called on for military service,” he said.

Zubov said he was disappointed with the service, where instead of fights with the enemy the National Guardsmen have to spend days in cold and wet trenches and have insufficient food supplies.

So to cook borshcht, a traditional Ukrainian beetroot soup, the soldiers had to buy most of the products on their own and bring them from the village nearby.

Rostyslav Kornia, also from Mykolayiv Oblast, shows his camouflage, which is made of a flammable synthetic material. “We shouldn’t use it but that’s what we received at our base,” he said.

Kornia said his salary of less that $300 per month hardly allows his wife and child to make the ends meet. The only significant advantage is a 50-percent discount for electricity, gas and water supplies, which his family received thanks to his service.

As the term of their service ends by spring, most of the soldiers are looking forward to going back home. They, however, doubt the war could be over soon and blame the authorities for it.

Ukrainian President Petro “Poroshenko said this war would come to the end in two months,” Kornia said. “And we have almost two years so far and don’t see it’s end.”

Text by Oksana Grytsenko

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