In search of Christmas in Donbas

    In search of Christmas in Donbas

    What Ukrainian soldiers want for Christmas. Photos by Albert Lores

    Volunteers moved more than two hundred kilograms of baked cookies, pancakes, and candies to positions on the Bahmut front in an effort to give the troops a little taste of Christmas magic. Kamikaze drones and the Bethlehem light of peace were among the celebration supplies.

    They were joined by photographer Albert Lores and journalist Christian-Zsolt Varga to learn about our soldiers’ most treasured Christmas wishes. Soldiers’ dreams are actually about basic stuff like drones, Abrams tanks, peace, and the collapse of Russia. Most significantly, though, is that many fantasize about rotating and spending the holidays with their families at home. Here, by the nation’s largest Christmas tree, weariness and exhaustion are palpable. Conversations at a hastily furnished home in a community on the front lines reveal that the war will be prolonged, and the situation with international support is currently very complex.

    Bohdan “Dan”

    “Dan”, an experienced and twice-injured veteran with one blind eye, runs a shellter for soldiers. Here, soldiers can take a shower and rest for a few days before returning to their positions. Last week, a famous Ukrainian singer, Arsen Mirzoyan came here and brought a Christmas tree and a lot of decorations. Bohdan put  some of them around the house and in the house “to help the guys who come here from the front line get into a different mood and relax a bit.”

    The Christmas tree, however, has ended up in a different place. It stands in the middle of a crossroads on the road to Klishchiivka, between Kostiantinivka and Bakhmut. “This tree is the closest to the front line in Ukraine. And we believe that this is the most important Christmas tree in this country right now”, says Dan.

    “Every Ukrainian soldier who goes to the front sees it. We put it here for them so that it cheers them up when they drive past.”

    The atmosphere around the tree is apocalyptic, with white fields, burnt-out car skeletons, trampled trees, and destroyed houses all around. Artillery battles can be heard in the distance, creating a constant rumble in the background. Stopping here for too long is dangerous. Some of the Christmas baubles on the tree are frozen, as is a Christmas sack under the tree, in which Bohdan has placed a bunch of grenade rings.


    “Yes, of course we think about Christmas all the time,” replies the commander, visibly irritated, when asked if they have time to think about Christmas at all. “The boys only have Christmas on their minds and decorate the drones with very special Christmas decorations.”


    “Of course, all holidays are associated with wishes and dreams and Christmas will be celebrated somehow. But war treats the holidays differently. Plans can change at any moment and suddenly you only have five minutes to survive.”


    The last time he was home on holiday was in 2022. “My wife said that there would be no Christmas without her husband.”

    Wish list

    The war to end and for us not to lose.

    I want to go home to Luhansk region! 

    To survive.

    To win as soon as possible. 

    To bring our brothers back from captivity to their homeland.

    To rebuild our country and restore order and honesty of our leadership.

    I wish Rusnia to end in the near future I wish that the number of conscious Ukrainians increases every day.

    I wish the whole world to forget about the existence of Russia and isolate itself from it.

    May the war in Ukraine end soon with Ukraine’s victory.

    May God protect all UkrainiansThat every defender has a guardian angel behind his back.

    I wish for the soonest possible victory.

    Return of all Ukrainian children Peace and prosperity.

    We wish you a quick victory.

    A happy future for Ukraine and our children Health to the people and countries that help Ukraine and care about Ukraine’s fate.

    I want the war to end!!!

    I want to go home to my family.

    For Christmas, I wish you peace and health, because these are the only two things that matter most in the world. Appreciate what you have and believe in the best. 

    May God bless you and your family!

    I hope that next year the soldiers who have been at war for two years will have the opportunity to have a rest with their loved ones.

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