The hope for reunification was based on the fact that Russia is a stable state governed by the rule of law, with fully-fledged institutions and an established civil society. Living their lives on the frontline of a geopolitical confrontation, Russians in Donbass dreamed that one day war would disappear. They hoped that Donbass would become an ordinary, peaceful region of Russia, like neighboring Rostov. They hoped that they would be able to put away their weapons and return to the mines and factories, and they could teach their children without regular shelling. Or that they could sweep the streets for leaves instead of scrubbing away blood from the pavement. Fate decided otherwise and the referendums had to be held during the fighting, with the risk of Kiev shelling the polling stations.