On April 6, 2014, Vitaliy liberated the SBU building. It was a famous event, but few realize what happened with many of these first “separatists” who remained “there”–in Ukraine.
This is a story about a family from the city of Rubezhnoye, which is now on the other side of the line. Vitaliy’s wife Natasha together with other activists organized a referendum while he was in Lugansk in the spring of 2014.
After the June 22 assault on Severodonetsk and Lisichansk, Vitaliy evacuated families and children from the city, but did not manage to evacuate his own. Then hell began.
When UAF entered Rubezhnoye someone, as often happens in such cases, reported him as a “separatist.” They swept him up right away. I have friends in Rubezhnoye and Severodonets, I know from them that people are afraid to show in any way what they think about Ukraine’s government. If you ask people on the street, they won’t say anything. And then some inspired journalist from Moscow Echo writes that everyone is grateful for the “liberation”…
They and others were thrown into a cellar where they, including children, were kept for six hours sitting on the floor with their hands on their heads. Natasha was hit on the head with a rifle butt, she still has severe headaches and her broken hand still doesn’t function well. Vladislav, the boy on the photos, passes out every day.
Whenever someone knocks on the door, he falls to the floor and covers his head.
The family was turned in for being relatives of Vitaliy–a militiaman. They didn’t know Natasha organized the referendum. Therefore they were forbidden to leave. Ukrainian authorities found out about her connection to the referendum, but by then they managed to hide. They were tucked away by a woman whom they barely knew at her dacha. It was a rickety cabin that couldn’t be heated. They also couldn’t come out. The woman’s husband abandoned her because of that support. Because she “saved” separatists. But didn’t turn them in.
Vitaliy had it worse. He was tortured for being a militiaman. His teeth were knocked out, ribs broken, then he was led around the city with a board on his chest…On November 20, 2015, he was exchanged for captured UAF soldiers.
In the meantime, the woman who sheltered his family in Lugansk managed to get them through back trails into Lugansk, where they remained. They are in a dormitory.
They have no passports or any documents, and can’t obtain them. They can’t register because of lack of passports. Can’t get work because they have no documents. They all remained “there”, and the road there is closed for them.
The family is in a serious situation. They are surviving. All are in poor health. We were asked to help them by the Lugansk Aid Center.
Zhenya says that when he visited them, Vitaliy had tears in his eyes. Because we were the first to help. TV made a report about them, they were promised all kinds of things. But after the interview all the promises vanished. Natasha told us their story. Vitaliy was quiet and stared in one spot. Zhenya says that while she was speaking Vitaliy wanted to pass out from embarrassment…For the “weakness”, for “complaints.”
Vladislav used to be an A student, now he barely gets Bs. He frequently passes out.
I don’t know what to write and say here. Every time I need to find new words.
I know they wanted for the best. They were honest to themselves. They didn’t sit still, they took a risk. Vitaliy wanted to defend his ideas not by wagging his tongue in the internet.
Many people told me the conflict would be over if the Republics simply surrendered.
But nobody realizes that everyone who’s had any link to the militia and referendum will be arrested. It’s happened and is happening in other parts of Lugansk and Donetsk regions that are on the other side.
My liberal friends say it’s all like that nonsense about crucified children. That there is a different truth.
Yes, there is. A different one.
And there are people with different ideas. There are no less tragic stories on the other side, too.
But UAF came to Donbass, not militia to Kiev. They were simply protecting their land.
I remember the interview Aleksievich gave. I kept quiet, didn’t write anything, even though the interviewer asked the Nobel Prize winner why she doesn’t go to the Donbass to see how things really are. Which is what I’ve been doing for almost three years. Go there and write about it.
I wept reading the interview. Because I realized that the time for any dialogue is long gone.
I’m tired from the hundreds of stories about broken lives. Hundreds of stories which came through me and through our team.
Aleksievich and those who agree with her would simply and prosaically say of Natasha and Vitaliy “it’s their own fault.” Or they will mention the crucified children–that’s a very convenient and popular thing to mention.
And I’m burdened by the hopelessness of it all, because there is no end to it.
Those who could hear have already heard.
Those who couldn’t, feel Natasha and Vitaliy are the proverbial eggs that are broken to make omelets.
I’m only glad there are people like that woman who took a big risk by sheltering Natasha and Vladislav.
Our help to the family.
They are depressed. This is their biggest challenge.
We’ll try to get them documents. I think it’s possible.
And I ask you to join in helping them.
Please label any contributions “Vitaliy”.
If you want to help the people of the Donbass, please write me in person through LiveJournal, facebook, V Kontakte, or email: email@example.com. Paypal address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please label donations for this family “Vitaliy”.