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The Story of Ukraine's Strawberry Andreevna

The Story of Ukraine's Strawberry Andreevna
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On January 19, 70-year-old Lyudmila Kakhidze was buried in the village of Muzychi in Ukraine’s Kyiv region. She had died three days earlier at a checkpoint in the eastern Donetsk region.

Kakhidze had lived in Zhdanivka, a small town in separatist-occupied territory to the northeast of Donetsk that had seen some of the heaviest fighting during eastern Ukraine’s 2014 war with Russia-backed rebels. She traded fruit at a local market and would call her daughter, an artist based in Kyiv, every day to describe in detail her daily life and share her observations. She did not support Russian activities in Donetsk.

Kakhidze's daughter, painter Alevtina Kakhidze, recorded the dialogues with her mother, and later illustrated them as drawings. She gave her mother a nickname -- Strawberry Andreevna -- to protect her identity. The nickname was based on a name given to her mother by one of the boys in the kindergarten where she used to work as a tutor.

After the conflict in eastern Ukraine reached its peak in 2014, Ukraine stopped paying salaries and pensions to those living in occupied territories. To be eligible for her pension, Kakhidze regularly had to cross a checkpoint in the Donetsk region to enter into Ukrainian-controlled territory and prove that she was a Ukrainian resident. The trip in January was her last.

-- Text by Anastasia Gorelova

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