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Oleksandr Khomchenko: “When they took me for shooting to the pit with bodies of killed people, I saw my life flash in front of me”. Part 2

Oleksandr Khomchenko: “When they took me for shooting to the pit with bodies of killed people, I saw my life flash in front of me”. Part 2

Oleksandr was arrested on August 4, when he came to the evening service after having taken one more family out of Donetsk.

“Every day I went to the square as if it were Golgotha. That day, it was not only praying – we congratulated two of our parishioners on their birthdays. For that I bought two buckets of flowers and chocolates. Every day I lived as if it were the last day. And I was happy if anything good happened. We prayed, with tanks and AIVs passing by. When the people started leaving, all of a sudden I saw Roksana detained by some people – she was one of the women whose birthday we celebrated. She may have left the city, but her father, professor, refused to go. He did not want to leave his library of 5 thousand books. Some people came up to me and said that they were representatives of the “Russian Orthodox Army” and that I was arrested. They asked me who had allowed me to meet in the square. I showed the permission given by the city council. The militant tore it into pieces… They took us to the regional police department. They accused us of not being orthodox Christians as we had no crosses.  Roksana showed her cross, and soon she was released. They even gave the flowers and sweets back to her. I was not released, Together with my assistant Valera, I was taken to Makiivka. We were shocked when we saw the letters which militants wrote on the building. It was like a nightmare, it was NKVD (the police during the first years of the soviet power)”.

Oleksandr was beaten and tortured; his arms were tied at the back and he was suspended. In one of the “NKVD” rooms he saw the whole set of instruments for torturing. “I recalled everything what I had read about the inquisition”, – he manages to joke. The militants found in the pastor’s pockets checks for petrol and the documents for the car which happened to be registered in Dnepropetrovsk. They shouted, “Ah, you work for Kolomoysky!”  So, they started interrogating him: who he worked for, who he reported to. Then he was taken to the regional police department in Donetsk. The bandit who tortured him was from Russia, from Belhorod. He came to Donetsk to fight fascism. And again Oleksandr could not understand: militant with call name “Bes” (satan) fought for the Russian orthodox church, and Abver – fought with fascism. Everything is topsy-turvy in their world.

During the four days of captivity, he was taken out to be shot three times. When it was for the first time, the automatic machine gun fired above his head. Oleksandr says that he was ready for death. During the first day of captivity, he saw and heard how they killed Ukrainians. Some of them were killed from automatic machine-guns; militants tried grenade launchers on others. A man was put on his knees, and they shot at the back of his head from a pistol. They took him out for shooting in Makiivka. They placed him on the edge of a pit with the bodies of killed captives. “After the war a lot of beds of honor like this will be found…  At that moment I repented and saw my whole life flash in front of me. I understood what I had not loved enough, what I had not finished… At that moment I told those morons around me, “Thank you, dear friends. I know where I am going, but your road leads to nowhere”. At that moment they fires, but the bullets did not hit me”.

Why weren’t you killed?

“I don’t know”, says Oleksandr. God interfered in. The chief of the “intelligence service” ordered, “Don’t kill the priest!” I think that he was afraid of publicity as my church parishioners gathered in front of the “NKVD” and started praying. So, I was given to them…  Bandits were drunk all the time. Do you know where they got the money to buy vodka? They found women with long hair, cut their hair off and sold it”. 

Oleksandr  knew that he could not stay in his native Donetsk because he was in the list of the people to be shot. People who stayed in Donetsk have told Oleksandr that all those bandits who tortured him are already dead.



Signs of tortures on Oleksandr’s body.

After he was released, Oleksandr went to Mariupol, to his pupils. His daughter and grandchildren were waiting for him there. His sons stayed in Donetsk

He was offered to serve either in Kyiv or in Odessa. But first he wanted to go to see his friend in Mykolayiv, and when he came there he decided to stay. When his friend got to know that Oleksandr was released, he called and invited Oleksandr to his place. Now the pastor lives in a small room in the church. He does not need a lot. His main mission is his trips to the ATO zone to Ukrainian militaries that are defending the country. 

Soldiers in the trenches often ask him questions which are not “religious” ones: “What are we fighting for?”  He answers, “Don’t mix the state and the country; and the government with the people. I don’t raise soldiers’ patriotism. My mission is to save their souls.

What did Polish policemen ask you about gathering evidence for the European Court?

 “About everything. About the prison cell, who and when came to me, how long I was beaten. Every detail. What was robbed by the militants. My car was dismantled. They took away the wheels, the accumulator. Only the framework was left. I have a house and a flat in Donetsk. My sons are living in them now. If bandits see an empty accommodation, they break inside. In the past they did it at night. Now they are not “shy”. They break in and take away what they like. Do you remember how supermarket “Metro” was robbed”? Pure looting. They took heavy boxes with alcohol, dozens of jeans, jackets… How much do people need? How much are they able to carry?”

The Pastor took some pictures to Brussels, pictures drawn by children from Maryinka  and the photos of Donetsk Maidan which lasted for 158 days.

Violetta Kirtoka, “Facts”

New service "Explain Ukraine". This is a daily mailout of five articles which were written about the situation in the Donbas by Donbas journalists and translated into English. Honest vision of people who work in the field is unbiased and fresh which is crucial in the world which is full of desinformation and propaganda. We try to share this vision in out daily mailout.  You can subscribe here.

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