Some people simply seemed to change personality as if shedding old skin. A local teacher who used to tutor me in Russian and excitedly ask about life in the U.S. had become a vocal separatist. She proselytized the separatists’ cause in her classes, one student told me over coffee recently. To her, everyone in Kiev was a Nazi, the student said.
Four years ago, I hiked over this rolling steppe with a group of friends, setting up a picnic atop the bluff overlooking the city. Now the grass is stained with blood, littered with shell casings and marked by rocket craters.
Though I knew returning might be dangerous, I wanted to document what was happening in this part of the world in an attempt to understand how the war had changed the lives of those I once broke bread with.
Like in much of the rest of Donbass, people were poor but content. The average wage was $200 a month, just enough to keep a roof over your head and purchase food to feed your family. People saved so they could splurge on birthdays, New Year and Orthodox Easter, but there was little left over for any extravagances. The war came to me: From U.S. Peace Corps to Ukraine conflict reporter