How Ukrainian borderland lives in anticipation of attack from Belarus

The monument to good neighborliness on the border between Belarus and Ukraine has not been torn down yet / Ukrainska Pravda

Many mixed families are living in the border villages of the Rivne region. "They are half Ukrainians, half Belarusians," says local journalist Diana Bilous in a conversation with Euroradio.

A month ago, Diana traveled to the border in person. Only the cameraman was allowed to get to where the line marks the end of the Rivne region and the beginning of Belarus because every inch of this territory is now mined.

"The Rivne region is preparing for an attack from Belarus, but it is not afraid," Diana told Euroradio.

Q: Did the residents of Ukrainian and Belarusian border villages used to communicate closely?

A: Near the border live the people who have relatives in Belarus. They are half-Belarusians themselves. And they do not have any bad feelings toward the Belarusian people.

Diana Bilous / photo from her archive

We understand who stands behind what's happening. We understand that it's the Belarusian authorities. But at the same time, we doubt that the Belarusian people and the local population will be able to stop this power directed by Russia.

Q: How does the Belarusian-Ukrainian border look like from your side now?

A: I went to the border with Belarus and saw the preparations there. And I can say that both our fighters and the local population are ready for the attack from Belarus.

Yes, in the beginning, it was uneasy. On the one hand, Russia attacked us, and after a few months, there was an extensive discussion that Belarusians would attack us from the other side. But now I can't say that people here are afraid of something else. All the more, those who have lived all this time in the border territories are not afraid of anything.

We, in the Rivne region, have amber diggers. They are the people who, even in peaceful life, had weapons and heavy machinery - cars, armored personnel carriers. They are not the kind of people who would be afraid of an offensive.

Belarusian-Ukrainian border / Ukrainska Pravda

We have already experienced the scariest moments. Now we even know how long the air-raid alarm will last when a military plane takes off your airfield. And once in a month or a month and a half, fake news spreads that the Belarusians are about to start an offensive. All this has prepared us -- our people are no longer afraid of anything.

Q: Have many people evacuated from the border villages?

A: Only a very small percentage of the population has left. Elderly people stayed at home. Only the younger families with children have left. And elderly people and our military are building fortifications, preparing for an offensive from Belarus.

This is what the border areas look like now / Ukrainska Pravda

Businesses are mobilized, and everyone works. Businesses have relocated to us from Kherson and Kharkiv regions; some universities have moved here. People don't leave and work here because they understand that they must maintain jobs and help the military.

Moreover, elderly people don't leave. They have lived in Rivne all their lives. They have been going to these forests on the border all their lives. And even when the forests were mined - they still went there. In general, these are not the people who are afraid of anything.

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