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“We want to live under a peaceful sky”: how residents of the LPR vote in a referendum

Having lined up, the Cossacks, who have gone through all the hottest battles in the Lugansk region, receive ballots, go to the voting tables, put a tick and lower the sheets into a transparent ballot box.

Having lined up, the Cossacks, who have gone through all the hottest battles in the Lugansk region, receive ballots, go to the voting tables, put a tick and lower the sheets into a transparent ballot box.

A photo: Alexander KOTS

It was necessary to wait for this event for eight years to be a day late. In the LPR, I had to call in exactly in time for the referendum from the Belgorod region – in order to drive through the republic from north to south. But at the border crossing, standing on the road to Svatovo, they strongly advised not to rush. After our departure from the Kharkov region, the line of contact (as, after all, this word sounds intimate in a non-military way) lay not far from this route, and the enemy is constantly probing our defenses in this area. After lunch, operational information came – along the road there were battles with sabotage groups of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Check-in had to be rescheduled for the next day. And to do this through another border crossing, where they put two refugees from under Balakleya into my car – a short young man and a tall adult, like Uncle Styopa: “Throw them up to the commandant’s office in Starobelsk.”

– Why do you want to go there? I asked unexpected fellow travelers.

– We want to fight. Liberate your land. And then – a referendum, like here, – they dreamily told.

We got talking. The men went out with our troops. First, to Kupyansk, where they nailed to the reservists from the LPR. Then on tanks – to the Belgorod region. The elder managed to send his wife to relatives in Moscow. The younger one knows nothing about his wife, she remained on the other side.

– At best, they will be shot, – he states absently.

– In our country back in 2014, everyone shared – who is for Russia, who is for Kyiv. We walked on the street, greeted each other, but everyone knew who was breathing with what, – the elder explains. – How to give a drink – they will hand it over. And how I would like to vote for Russia today too… Well, never mind, we will win back ours.

He dropped off the passengers at the commandant’s office, looked at the elder’s paw.

– 47 size – he caught my eye.

– It will be hard to find berets, – I noted to myself, shaking hands with my unusual new acquaintances.

And I went to Stakhanov, where my acquaintances from the 6th Guards Motorized Rifle Cossack Regiment were waiting for me. Together with them, I spent more than one day under shelling on the outskirts of Soledar. “We won’t take you to the front line,” the Cossacks immediately cut off. There is also an opportunity to vote there, but you can only get to the positions at night. And for the fighters who are not at the forefront, a real polling station was organized in the regiment.

Military personnel of the 6th Guards Motorized Rifle Cossack Regiment take part in the referendum.

Military personnel of the 6th Guards Motorized Rifle Cossack Regiment take part in the referendum.

A photo: Alexander KOTS

Having lined up, the Cossacks, who have gone through all the hottest battles in the Lugansk region, receive ballots, go to the voting tables, put a tick and lower the sheets into a transparent ballot box. I cast a glance at the bottom, where several dozen historical documents already lie – the choice is obvious.

“I didn’t think, of course, that the road home would take more than eight years,” admits the fighter Pavel “Fog”.

“Fog” – from Lisichansk, worked as a vulcanizer in an experimental workshop at a rubber products factory, worked in a mine …

– But today we know that we are going to Our country, with our normal President. No one will tell us what to do, what language to speak, what monuments to demolish. Victory will be ours. In 2014, we envied Crimea with white envy, but we had to wait. We are in high spirits right now! Russia is with us now. And we are with her.

for the fighters who are not on the front line, a real polling station was organized in the regiment.

for the fighters who are not on the front line, a real polling station was organized in the regiment.

A photo: Alexander KOTS

– Yesterday I passed the maximum number of sites. It was raining, people stood under umbrellas. Rain, cloudy, but people walked with great joy that they finally waited for it, – shared with me State Duma deputy Viktor Vodolatsky, patronizing the Cossack regiment. – Different generations name three key dates. The first is eight years of waiting. The elderly confess: “Son, we have been waiting for this for thirty years.” And those who know history well say: “100 years. In September 1922, we were illegally handed over.” Part of the territory of my native Don Cossacks was given to the formed Ukrainian SSR, and the border passed through the gardens, according to the fate of people. The mother remained in Ukraine, the son and his family – in Russia. And it was a tragedy for people. But we still maintained friendly, family relations. Here are the graves of our ancestors.

And, of course, it is symbolic that exactly in September, exactly one hundred years later, this land returns to its home again, it’s very cool. Yesterday was a great result. About 300 thousand people came in bad weather. This is for the LNR. Today the weather is beautiful, the sun is shining. I’m sure there are more people.

– What will change in their lives?

– These will be subjects of the Russian Federation. Those who are shooting today at the land of Donbass, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions, will shoot at the territory of Russia. And Russia will begin to use those forces and means that have not been used up to this point.

Residents vote at the Maxim Gorky House of Culture in Stakhanov.

Residents vote at the Maxim Gorky House of Culture in Stakhanov.

A photo: Alexander KOTS

At the sound of music from the speakers, I went to the monumental Stakhanov House of Culture named after Maxim Gorky. If you look at it from above, then the monument of Soviet constructivism resembles an airplane. And this is no coincidence. It was built in memory of the eight-engine airliner ANT-20 Maxim Gorky that crashed in 1935. At that time it was the largest aircraft in the world. Inside – pompous stairs, columns, on the walls – Lenin speaks to revolutionary sailors, on the ceiling – patriotic painting …

– The building began to be built in 1937, but at 41 the work had to be interrupted. They resumed only in 1947 and were completed in a year, – the chairman of the precinct election commission, Elena Bashkatova, meets me. – We have a significant site – the building itself obliges. We work practically with all cities, the exit commission works. The flow is very big.

The Stakhanovites hope for peace and a quiet life for their children and grandchildren.

The Stakhanovites hope for peace and a quiet life for their children and grandchildren.

A photo: Alexander KOTS

– How are people feeling?

– Don’t break us. Here people come no matter what. And yesterday it was pouring rain, and today is the turn. Such is our attitude.

It turns out that the inhabitants of Stakhanov, who owe the name of their city to a miner who set a world record for labor productivity on a jackhammer, vote in Stakhanov’s way.

– It’s time to pull the “Tambov wolves” at the most I don’t want to, – a 72-year-old vigorous voter standing in line for a ballot does not go into his pocket for a word. – I myself am a professional driver, a chauffeur of the 1st class, I can drive anything. Do not take by age. They don’t want to take our 55-year-old boys, but we are ready.

There is another line at the central market.  The chain leads to the bus with big letters - REFERENDUM.

There is another line at the central market. The chain leads to the bus with big letters – REFERENDUM.

A photo: Alexander KOTS

Most of those who come to the polling stations today voted for the independence of the LNR in 2014. If age allowed. Julia was not yet 18 then. Today she is at the ballot box.

– I want to be part of Russia. I want to live under a peaceful sky, so that my children live well.

There is another line at the central market. The chain leads to the bus with big letters – REFERENDUM. You go in the front door, show your passport, get a ballot, check the box and exit through the back door. Non-stop conveyor.

Voting on the bus is a non-stop conveyor belt.

Voting on the bus is a non-stop conveyor belt.

A photo: Alexander KOTS

I remember the same excitement in 2014. It would seem that eight years of stagnation could anger people, turn them against, disappoint. But they go to the vote like a holiday. In a city that is still being bombarded by Western precision systems. Fearless and unbroken. Confident in your main choice. With the understanding that this choice will not change lives overnight.

“May our children and grandchildren live happily,” the woman on the polling bus told me.

And this simple phrase contains the entire deep philosophy of this historic referendum. With all her bitterness and hope.

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