The ATM’s in Donetsk finally failed, we spent 2 days trying to find a working cash point, but to no avail. The first day we walked around every bank in the centre even finding one that paid out to the man before us but our cards did not function. After that fruitless day we met up with Roman in the evening to see if he could help us, we walked to the golden circle a commercial district on the outskirts As John went round trying to find atm’s Elliott was accosted by a friendly girl, who was obsessed with horses. She talked about her horses, where she had seen horse events, and questioned Elliott as to whether he indeed liked horses. After being tested on more horse riding trivia Elliott managed to break away with the promise of photos of her horses on the way via email. We were meeting up with Max, Roman’s friend and not long after meeting talk turned to where to find money. Max informed us that there was a suburb on the outskirts of Donetsk where there may be working cash-points.
We managed to convince Max to drive us there, a very kind gesture, so we set off for Max’s house to pick up his car, it was a nice walk through the older part of town and soon we were on the road to the outskirts, no cash-points at all worked in the area, we fruitlessly searched with Elliott having one of his cards eaten in the process. The shelling was much louder here, but we were much too focused on ATM’s to care. On the way back we spotted a big supermarket and decided to stock up and pay by card. We were nearly in central Donetsk when we were stopped at a DNR checkpoint, this was a slight problem as Roman did not have any in date identity papers. At first it was tense as they quizzed us but eventually we were sent on our way by a drunk soldier with a warning that the stamp was wrong on our passes (the stamp wasn’t wrong he just wanted to have achieved something by stopping us.) When we arrived back we sat by the river and drank beer to the accompaniment of extremely close outgoing artillery thundering around us from the nearby emplacements.
The following day we decided enough was enough and after checking a main Russian bank one more time arranged a western union transfer. We had heard that there was one bank open that would issue money, we headed over and stood in what we thought was the queue. But after Elliott got a severe reprimand from a gang of angry old ladies we discovered that the queuing system involved finding out who was last then watching them to see when it was your turn.
We then realized it was going to be a long wait, after 2 hours in the sweltering office people became understandably annoyed and aggressive as they tried to desperately withdraw their money. To break the monotony a massive round of shelling began near the bank, so the front doors and shutters were closed. It was quite unnerving but did thin out the customers so we managed to get our money (With an awful exchange rate). We went out to celebrate and were enjoying a beer at a bar called Sun city when artillery began landing around 500 metres away. We sat and watched the plumes of smoke until we were told the bar was closing due to lack of custom (obviously) and left to meet Katya, a fixer we had met whilst picking up our front line passes a few days before.
She was with her friend Guido, an Italian journalist. They had been in the bomb shelter whilst we had been sipping beer, this made us re assess how we should react the next time an artillery barrage strikes near. We had dinner and arranged to meet the next day at the main base in Donetsk for some interviews.
We will update the blog later today as we have been very busy the last few days!