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“Where did he get so much courage not to give in?” Searching for a teenager who was killed by terrorists. Part 2

“Where did he get so much courage not to give in?” Searching for a teenager who was killed by terrorists. Part 2

They say, two most difficult things are uncertainty and having to bury your own child. The Chubenkos family has to go through both of them. 

Sixteen-year-old Stepan Chubenko was kidnapped by terrorists in Donetsk in July 2014. While in captivity, he was first tortured and after that shot dead for his patriotic views. A large-scale campaign aimed at finding him gradually turned into a large-scale campaign to return his body to his parents.

“Where did he get so much courage not to give in?” Searching for a teenager who was killed by terrorists. Part 1


Whenever something was wrong with my son I always felt it, but that time I did not feel anything. As if someone had erected a thick wall between us. We had been asking him to go from Kyiv via Kharkiv as it was not occupied and it was safe. I still cannot understand why he had decided to buy tickets for the train which was going via occupied Donetsk... That was the place where he was detained, as they told me later, because he was wearing a yellow and blue ribbon. And for the next couple of days I had no idea... I keep thinking about this. If I had learnt that he was captured earlier, maybe I would have been able to attract a lot of attention to this case and save Stepan?..

Stalyna still cannot understand: why did not those people who detained her son in Donetsk telephone her or her husband? Why did not anyone think that the boy was under age and his parents were responsible for him? Why did those “new city  authorities” send her son to dig trenches in the village nearby practically immediately? Why was the child brutally murdered after several days of severe tortures? Why did those grown up and armed men, who had their own children, and who claimed that they were protecting the people of Donbas from fascists (?!) used fascist methods themselves? Why did they decide that they had the right to torture other people and take lives of others, lives which had not been given by them? Why did  a child who had been born in Ukraine, loved his Motherland and refused to betray it deserve death? Why did not they think what was to become of his parents, of people who cared about him? Why?.. 

But a long time had passed before the Chubenkos found out that their son was dead. When it turned out that Stepan was missing, his parents went to Donetsk. They spent days and nights near the building of the Secutiry Service of Ukraine which had been seized by terrorists and where all the captives of the summer 2014 were taken. Finally, when they managed to get a permission to meet the “heads of the republic”, they learnt that Stepan had been sent to dig trenches in Horbachevo-Mykhailivka. So, they went to look for their son there.

When we arrived in the village, we were told that Stepan “had run away when there was a mortar shelling”. However, different people told us different versions of his “runaway”: some said he had run away alone, some said that he had run away with  some girl... We went to all possible places all day long. I think,we showed our son’s photograph to every resident of that village. We kept asking them if they had seen that boy. They were either silent or asked: “And who does your boy support?” No one told us anything... One of “DPR” commanders gathered all the captives in our presence and asked if anyone had seen Stepan. They were just averting their eyes. My husband asked them quietly to find us if they knew at least some information about our boy. It was easy to do that as our telephone numbers were literally hanging on each tree in the vicinity. But no one called us...

The Chubenkos were so desparate after their fruitless search for Stepan, that they even addressed psychics. A lot of them were saying: “You son is alive, I can feel warm energy of his photograph”. Only one woman became hysterical when she saw the photograph of a good-looking boy with bright blue eyes. She cried: “I can’t... It’s so scary there! He was shot dead! Go away!”

Stalyna went even to Zakharchenko while looking for her son. After that visit, “DPR civil servants” stopped hiding from the devastated mother and finally started looking for Stepan.

Then, at the end of September, Stalyna got a telephone call. Someone said that her son had been found. They knew where he was buried and he would be exhumated on October 3. “I will be there as well, whatever happens”, decided the woman.

“It was on Friday. I remember, as I was standing there I kept thinking: maybe, it is a mistake. Maybe, they buried someone else there... Even when they got to the film which the body had been wrapped into, I still refused to believe. I saw that the corpse was dressed in my son’s clothes and I was thinking: What if they had put Stepan’s clothes on someone else?..” The corpse had already started to decay, but the height,  the body, every detail that was still possible to distinguish — all those things left no place for hope... His murderers were not ashamed of taking his trainers (Stepan was barefooted) and clothes of their “ideological enemy”, but, it looked like they were terribly afraid of this sixteen-year-old teenager who was not armed — they had tied Stapen’s hands behind his back with Scotch tape...

Liliya Rahutska, obozrevatel.com

New service "Explain Ukraine". This is a daily mailout of three 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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