A grey zone is a place of indefiniteness. It represents the lack of control and the difficulty of regain it. In an armed conflict, the term is designated to define the territory being disputed, but yet not controlled by none of the sides.
Although still quite active despite of cease fire agreements, the frontline between Zaitsevo (eastern Ukraine) and Gorlovka (controlled by Russian backed rebels), remain an active war zone that has been under constant shelling since the war started in 2014.
The civilian population, who still have to cross from one side to another, face the dangerous task of reaching a lawless zone, effectively controlled by nobody.
Mikhitykva is located just before the first checkpoint controlled by the rebels, in the Zaitsevo/Gorlovka contact line. The area where the village is located has been badly damaged in every possible way.
Ljudmila Vasilievna and Nikolay Nikolayevich are an elderly couple living in Mikhitykva.
Once peaceful small villages like Mikhitykva, these places situated on conflict's borders, have been caught in cross fire several times. The ones who decide to stay, are forced to adapt their lives and learn how to cope with a life, full of uncertainty.
Soldiers take a break before inspect a car on its way to rebel control territory.
Civilians traveling from rebel held Gorlovka to Zaitsevo, wait their turn to cross over the contact line. With three checkpoints on each side, it usually takes 8 hours to cross the 1 km stretch of land separating both sides.
Checkpoint road block at Zaitsevo.
Ljudmila and Nikolay by their warehouse door. Ljudmila Vasilievna and Nikolay Nikolayevich are an elderly couple living in Mikhitykva, a village inside the area called grey zone.
Ljudmila throws a light into the basement. After 3 years of fighting, she and her husband don’t bother to spent their nights there anymore. Inside the basement, they keep a stash of canned food for periods of intense fight.
Curtain hole caused by shrapnel. In a period of three years since the war started, their house has been shelled 9 times. Nobody was ever injured.
Ljudmila goes to meet her neighbors on early morning.
Ljudmila’s neighbor and friend, Ljuba.
Ljuba and her husband Slava are also still living in Mikhitykva. Part of their ceiling, kitchen, living room and windows were damaged during recent shelling. They are one of the few remaining residents in the village.
One of the few intact windows in the village, with a Saint Nicholas icon, at Ljudmila’s house. “Bring your tribulations to Nicholas the Merciful and he will take them to the All-Merciful Savior.” - Popular Russian saying.
Ljuba holds her newborn cat.
Ljudmila holds the key of her house. As the couple still lives in this hot zone, frequently civilians who found themselves stranded in the grey zone seek shelter with the couple. Their house has become sort of a safe heaven.