The community of a village located on the Ukrainian-Russian border has been divided into two parts for almost 20 years. With no gas or water supplies on the Ukrainian side, they are desperately trying to reunify.
When Ukrainian Aleksey Bogdanov opens a door to his backyard, he finds himself in a different country. His house stands on the Russian-Ukrainian border in eastern Ukraine – a fact which Aleksey says causes him a slight headache.
“I buy water on the Russian side. I pay my electricity bills in Russia. I buy groceries in stores on the other side of the border. That’s why for me it would’ve been far more convenient if my village was a part of Russia,” Aleksey says.
The village where Aleksey lives was once a normal residential area. But with the collapse of the USSR, Vyselki was split in two parts by the border of the new sovereign states – Russia and Ukraine.
Most of Vyselki now stands on the Russian side, while only 14 houses are in Ukraine. A few dozen residents living here have to cross the border several times a day.
Anatoly Sergienko, a pensioner living on the Russian side, often does just that to visit his friend, and complains that he has to walk several kilometers to get there.
“When I pass the border on foot there are no problems. I show my passport and pass through. But if I need to get there by car, I have to pay every time. And I can’t afford it. My father is buried on the other side and I can’t visit the cemetery because of that,” Anatoly Sergienko says.
Grocery stores, schools and hospitals all stand in the Russian part of the village. Those few families living on the Ukrainian side feel hard done by.
“The Russian side of the village has recently had gas and water supplies installed. Here we haven’t got that. Its only 14 houses here on the Ukrainian side and no one bothers to do anything for us. We have complained many times, but the situation remains the same,” says village resident Svetlana Sturova.
Desperately trying to resolve the issue, locals wrote an open letter to the governments of both states, asking for parts of their village to be reunified under the Russian flag. They are aware that this would mean re-shaping the border, but local officials say that nothing is impossible.
“It is up to foreign ministries in Moscow and Kiev to resolve it. It is possible to find a compromise which would not violate the constitutions of the two states. It is only a matter of the politicians’ good will,” believes Boris Repukhov, head of the regional council.
The plea made by the residents of the village has caused heated debate in both Kiev and Moscow.
Residents of the Vyselki village have been accused of separatism and betrayal of the state by some in Kiev, but they say their request has no political motivation whatsoever.
And while for some this is a matter of territorial integrity, for the people living there it is a matter of living a comfortable life, politics aside.