Russia: Wildfires Victims Sorry They Fought For Their Houses

The aftermath of the recent wildfires in Russia is on the agenda of the main media channels. Reports on and interviews with victims, volunteers, humanitarian aid workers and government officials are covering mainly positive developments: new houses are being built for the victims, financial compensations are being paid to the families who lost their houses in the fires,  donated clothes and goods are being sent to survivors.

But the blogosphere talks about “silent” victims of the wildfires: those who fought for their old houses instead of giving up everything and running from their villages.

Natalya Radulova (aka LJ user radulova), a columnist for the popular Russian weekly “Ogonyok” [RUS], writes about those people in her blog post titled “Who really suffered because of the fires in Russia” [RUS]. Equipped with a mobile phone camera, Radulova  went to a small Russian village Yuzhny and talked to the people who chose to put down the wildfires and stay in their houses.

“They are not entitled for a compensation,” Radulova wrote, “they are not being paid, they will not receive new houses in new modern villages. They stay to live in villages where they don't have electricity and where there are only few houses left.”

Radulova explained that people who decided to run from their villages as soon as the fires started now enjoy much better life than those who decided to stay and fight the fires:

Вот, к примеру, послелок Южный. Вот труба от сгоревшего дома. Его хозяину уже строят новый дом в поселке, где будет газ, горячая вода, ванная, туалет и проч. Он уже получил компенсацию, он выбирает из “гуманитарки” лучшие вещи, а б/у выбрасывает. Он живет в специализированном центре – они называют это “курорт”. Там им установили кондиционеры, их кормят три раза в день, им привозят много подарков. И такой вот Вася, вечный безработный, получив деньги на карточку, теперь ходит в магазин и “попивает винцо”, бросив дома своих коз, котов и собак. Его жизнь круто изменилась в лучшую сторону.

This is, for example, Yuzhny village. Here is the chimney left from the burned house. They are already building a new house in a new village for the owner [of the burned house – GV] where he will have gas, hot water, bathroom, toilet, etc. The owner already received a compensation. He is choosing the best things from humanitarian aid packages and he throws away second-hand clothes. He lives in a specialized center, they call it “resort.” They installed air conditioners for the people there, they are fed three times a day, they are being given many presents. And that Vasya, perpetually unemployed, received money [from the government – GV] and goes to a store and drinks vine after he abandoned his goats, cats and dogs. His life drastically changed for the better.

А дальше, видите, стоит дом человека, который всю ночь сражался с огнем так, что у него белки глаз стали красными. Теперь он живет в почти вымершем поселке, где сразу же отключи свет и закрыли магазин: “Кто ж знал, что наше правительство вдруг так расщедриться. Думали, что все будет как обычно и нам самим придется восстанавливаться. Поэтому защищали дома самые активные, а старики и пьянь, те, кому на все посрать, сразу уехали”. Ему и его семье еще встречать зиму. Почти в чистом поле, где никто дороги от снега чистить теперь не будет. Чего их чистить-то ради парочки жителей?

And further you can see a house of a person who fought the fires for the whole night so his eyes became red. Now he lives in almost a dead village where they immediately disconnected electricity and closed shops. “Who new that our government would be so generous? We thought that everything would be as always and we would be responsible for restoring our houses. That is why the most active villagers defended their houses from the wild fires and the elders and drunks and those who do not care immediately left.” He and his family will have to face the winter almost in the filed where nobody will be clearing roads from snow. Why clear the roads for only a couple of villagers?

The discussion around the post focused around the widespread poverty in Russian villages and unequal efforts of the government to deal with the victims of the wildfires. LJ user bolshoi_zaitz, for example, wrote [RUS]:

По мне – если населенный пункт попал в зону пожаров – то надо давать компенсацию деньгами ВСЕМ жителям сгоревших деревень. Чтобы те, кто смог защитить жилье, понимали, что не зря это делали. И именно деньгами. Чтобы сами заключали договора на строительство. Можно регламентировать, конечно сроки и т.д. […] А так получается, что склонность забулдыг к халяве только неимоверно подстегнули.

I think they should give a compensation to ALL people in burned villages if they were affected by the fires. So that those who managed to save their houses could understand that they didn't do it in vain. And they need to be compensated with money. So they themselves could sign contracts for building new houses. Of course, it needs to be regulated, deadlines need to be set, etc. […] Otherwise, we only encourage the inclination of the drunks toward free things.

Another user pr_woland expressed his concern [RUS]  that troubles would not stop there:

Вы еще не забудьте сколько всего разворуют, отмоют и пропилят на этих пожарах. Не погорельцы, конечно, а те, кто у распределительного вентиля сидит в кожаных креслах.

Don't forget that there is a lot of money that people will steel and launder on the pretext of the wildfires. Not victims, of course, but those who sit by the distribution vent in leather chairs.

A numbers of users in comments also claimed that humanitarian aid to the victims was stolen or given to the people who did not need any help or who were never affected by the wildfires. People also expressed their concerns with new houses being built for the victims. Those LJ users were sure that the new buildings would be poorly constructed and would not be appropriate for harsh Russian winters.

The blog post and bloggers’ reactions show that not many people believe that the efforts to help the victims of the fires will be conducted effectively and distributed fairly. But even among pessimistic comments, there is a place for gloom Russian optimism. LJ user nikolo_m cheerfully wrote [RUS] that “those who did not burn this year have a change to burn next year and it is unclear who is more lucky.”

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