SPARTAK Ukraine (Reuters) - With no electricity to power televisions, residents of the Ukrainian village of Spartak look to the skies where every night they watch what they call a concert of “fireworks”.
The fireworks are in fact flares, tracerfire and shells which regularly strike this village just 5 km (miles) from the airport in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk near where Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels have been fighting for weeks.
Many have already fled, leaving behind a mixture of the elderly and the proud, those reluctant to leave a village that they fear will be ransacked if either side wins.
Sasha, a 36-year-old taxi driver, took his wife and two children to Berdyansk, a government-held town on the Azov Sea in southern Ukraine where he rented a small apartment for them.
“I’ve told them - stay at the seaside ... it is pleasant there, stay a month or two, it should all be over by then,” he said at his house in Spartak on Saturday, just as a salvo from a multiple rocket launcher crashed about a kilometer away.
Sasha, who like all those interviewed in Spartak declined to give his surname for fear of reprisals, said he had become quite used to living with the crossfire and a curfew that bans them from moving around from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Several stray shells have hit houses or landed in gardens in Spartak, wounding at least two people. Two others were killed earlier in shootouts around the medium-sized village on the outskirts of Donetsk, some 15 km north from the city center.
Pavel, a tractor operator in his late 50s, said the villagers could now tell the difference between a multiple rocket launcher, a howitzer, a mortar, and between assault rifles and machine guns. Sometimes they sit outside and have barbecues while the night sky is lit up with the fighting.
“The problem is when it happens during the day, when people are out working. Yesterday me and a colleague were sitting on an open road, shelling was going on and we were thinking - how on earth do we return home from here?” Pavel said.
Most have stockpiled staples, storing flour, cooking oil and canned food after some refrigerators stopped working when the electricity went off. Some better off have petrol-driven power generators to keep their refrigerators going.
“All my food in the deep freezer spoiled after three days so I had to throw it away. I realized I needed something that could last and bought some canned food and flour,” said a pensioner who gave her name as Varvara.
“The good thing is that all the young people, son, daughter in law, kids, have left so I won’t need much.”
For Sasha, he shares his food with his own dogs and five strays, part of an increasing number of pets abandoned by their owners as they flee the fighting.
“It is better to feed them than to allow them to go wild and start biting people,” he said.
Editing by Gabriela Baczynska, Elizabeth Piper and Anna Willard