Saturday, March 21, 2015

Ukraine, land of plenty, now running on empty - Taipei Times

A Soviet tank mounted on a plinth outside a primary school attests to the last time the central Ukrainian town of Kagarlyk saw war up close. The tank is a leftover from the Soviet force that routed Nazi troops from Ukraine during World War II.

More than 70 years later, tanks have again been churning up the rich black soil of Ukraine as the country’s pro-Western government battles a pro-Russian insurgency. Seen on television from the comfort of a sitting room in Kagarlyk, a depressed town about 600km west of the frontline, the fighting that rumbles on at a low level despite a month-old truce seems remote. However, Ukrainians across the country are paying a high price for the conflict in the industrial Donbass region, which accounts for nearly 10 percent of national output.

Maria Polyvaniuk, a 27-year-old mother of two who lives in a drab Soviet-era apartment block, has watched aghast as the nation’s currency nosedived in the past year, triggering astronomical increases in the prices of imported food, clothes and other essentials. “Before, if we had something to celebrate, like a birthday, we could go to a cafe. We also ate more meat and fish,” says Polyvaniuk, a slight figure with wispy hair, describing life for a family of four on her electrician husband’s monthly salary of 2,000 hryvni in pre-war Ukraine. That salary was equivalent to US$250 a year ago, but just US$87 today.

“Nowadays, we cook mostly simple food, like soup and rice. As for clothes, we buy less and wait for sales,” she says.

Complete story at - Ukraine, land of plenty, now running on empty - Taipei Times

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