First the war in eastern Ukraine sent Anna Gurova’s family running to Russia. Now most of the residents on her old street have departed — and she said few of them plan to return, even if peace settles over the industrial region they once called home.
As Ukraine’s conflict settles into a calmer but still bloody rhythm, many of the war’s hundreds of thousands of refugees are rebuilding their lives elsewhere and giving up on a region that appears destined for permanent instability. Many have little intention of living in an area that is violently polarized between those who support Kiev and those who trust Moscow — especially now that the battle lines appear likely to be frozen in place, perhaps for years.
The depopulation of eastern Ukraine may have tough consequences for the region’s status as the country’s industrial heartland — and it is a first sign of the prospects for the evolving enclave. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Kremlin has used other dormant conflicts in Moldova and Georgia to pressure national governments, stoking low-level tumult that has lasted years. The terms of the Sept. 5 cease-fire may do the same in Ukraine, officials say.
“We are working on our Russian documents to become citizens,” Gurova said as she rested after her shift as a ticket-seller on a public bus route. “We came here just to save our children and move on with our lives.”