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Ukrainians Watch To See How Cease-Fire Plays Out


We're getting a clearer picture of life in eastern Ukraine, where a cease-fire went into effect last weekend.


It was supposed to end months of violence, but shelling continues. And so far, both the Ukrainian military and the pro-Russian rebels have refused to withdraw heavy weapons from the front lines - a key part of the peace agreement.

GREENE: Residents in the East have endured months of violence now. Many have been hiding, families crammed into underground bunkers that were designed during the Cold War.

KATERINA MALOFEYEVA: Well-equipped bomb shelters from the Soviet Union time. They have generators. They have sometimes electricity. They even sometimes have Internet connection. They have the visibility of life. And they also have their hierarchy, the leader of the bomb shelter, some people who cook, some people who wash, so they tried - you know, they take care of each other.

GREENE: That's the voice of Katerina Malofeyeva. We reached her earlier this morning. She is a resident of the city of Donetsk and has seen these bunkers because she works with journalists and also helps to arrange food and shelter for local families. She says the cease-fire has felt fragile, but people have been slowly emerging from underground.

MALOFEYEVA: Yesterday, they managed to go out from the shelters for approximately two hours to three hours to visit their homes and make the fire to warm up their place. But in the evening, they still go back to the shelter. It is not only because of the shelling, also because they don't have - many houses are damaged. They don't have glass - as well as mine was because mine was shelled exactly on the 14 of February. It was very nice gift for me.

GREENE: So what happened to your apartment?

MALOFEYEVA: You know, at the time I was on the press conference of the leader of (unintelligible) it was an attack or - I don't know who was it, but it was 14 of February in the center of the city. The shells hit my yard, playground; luckily there were no casualties. But all the houses don't have windows. Now I have on the plastic.

GREENE: And you were not home? You were out at a press conference, luckily.

MALOFEYEVA: Yeah. When I came out, I saw my mom and my father going up from the basement. My friend was at my home, and she was seated on the sofa. And, you know, only by her luck or - got a call, and she stood up from the sofa. And at this time, the shell, you know, the explosion weight provoked a break of the glasses, so luckily, you know, she saved her life.

GREENE: Katerina, with tense moments like that and having your own apartment hit by artillery fire, I mean, you sound - I don't know - amazingly upbeat.

MALOFEYEVA: I'm not happy, but, you know, I cannot - my work is connected to - you know, to journalists, to media. And I used to see dead people, you know, injured people, broken houses and all I see, you know, very, very awful pictures of this war. I'm trying not to - you know, not to give up. I try to cheer up and to continue to sound happy because other people here in Donetsk could have bigger problems than me.

GREENE: Katerina, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us and best of luck to you.

MALOFEYEVA: Yeah, you're welcome. Thank you, too.

GREENE: That was Katerina Malofeyeva, a resident of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.