Kramatorsk, Ukraine: In a lush garden between two apartment buildings in the city of Kramatorsk, Oleskandor Matovievsky chops dead wood for a bonfire. About 16 miles (25 kilometers) from the front line, people living in this area know that winters are harsh.

The gas has been cut off, the fighting shows no signs of stopping, and soldiers across the city are preparing for battle. Residents stock up on wood for the brick ovens and stoves that are installed in front of each building. “We band together to stay warm…and what happens, what happens,” said Matoviewski, chainsaw in hand.

“We used to be friendly, but we just got closer,” said the 42-year-old worker. Gas was cut off in May in the Donetsk region, which is partially controlled by Russian forces, and in the nearby occupied Lugansk region, where infrastructure has been damaged. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for the forced eviction of civilians from the Donetsk region in July.

“We are standing strong”

But Olga, 60, said she wouldn’t move out of her apartment despite a recent building strike in her neighborhood. Local media have reported that some residents were asked to sign waivers indicating their decision to stay despite warnings. “I haven’t signed anything,” said Olga.

“We will all die here together. A grave for each of us is fine. But we stand strong,” she said, raising her fists in the air. After that she has nowhere else to go. As she sat on a bench in front of the building, surrounded by her neighbors and cats, she said she was worried her young grandchildren would struggle in the cold winter. Of the 220,000 people who lived there before the war, about 60,000 remain in Kramatorsk, according to local officials.

“We don’t have the resources to heat residential areas,” said city council spokesman Igor Yeskov. However, the city is making preparations, including asking local businessmen to provide about 1,000 traditional wood-burning stoves to help those remaining. Not suitable for heating a large number of apartment buildings.

“Trying to live with dignity”

Olga’s cousin Andrii Kasionkin, 54, chose a different solution. Since February, he has been living in the basement in hopes of protecting his family from the atomic bomb and hoping for warmth in the winter. He said the temperature inside the cellar can be kept at 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) even in winter when it’s -10 degrees Celsius outside.

“We live here for now and try not to think about tomorrow,” he said. “We are trying to live with dignity. Even in this situation.” In the city of Sloviansk, close to the front line, the local hospital is preparing to install new heaters that can burn waste, coal or wood. I’m here. “I am very worried,” said hospital director Valentina Grushchenko. “A healthy person can feel comfortable in a variety of conditions, but a sick person needs a certain temperature.

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