Olena Tkachenko hastily left Luhansk in 2014, when illegal armed formations of “LPR” illegally arrested her husband. She continue to reflect on what caused the occupation of her city. Olena believes in kindness, but understands that war, as often happens, levels this bright side of human nature.
«I think that people are generally kind in our world, but this [occupation of Luhansk] was planned earlier from January, we did not understant that at that time». In winter she noticed that men of military outlook appeared on the city streets, however, they were in casual clothes. Olena three times has been a witness of the scenes like from spy films. A man came to the clothing store, bought a full set of clothes, changed in a booth, and left old clothes in a cell.
Olena noticed that political confrontation among the city residents intensified, while communicating with clients in April 2014. A polarization appeared as people started to think, who is on "our" side and who is not. One of her customers admitted that she had carried food to the people who seized and hold SBU building:
I remember I was petrified. I looked at her and cried out: "How could you say that they are "ours"?"
Another [client] said, “These are our guys! Our guys will come ... ” I had met many strange people around the city. You could easily notice that they were strangers, even they did not look like our people..
Pro-Russian rally the day before the seizure of SBU building. Luhansk, 2014. Photo: Roman Pilipey / EPA
Olena Tkachenko's inner circle - her family, most of her neighbors - supported the integrity of Ukraine and had a negative attitude towards the pro-Russian movements in the city.
Me and other people did not even have a thought that an armed conflict could start. Everyone supported Ukraine, and everyone wanted to stay in Ukraine. When it had come to the "referendum," everyone said that it made no sense. You should not ask us - we knew who we were with.
At the end of May, Olena's husband was seized by illegal armed formations at a checkpoint near the town of Shchastia: he was returning from a business trip to Luhansk. Olena did not find out immediately about the illegal arrest of her husband:
When they took them away, I noticed that information immediately appeared on TV and on the Internet. I was at work, I didn’t see it, but in the morning ... Probably three neighbors called me. People who knew my husband asked: "Why they took him?" Well, it is because he is a patriot of Ukraine.
During the next three days, while her husband was in the captured SBU building, Olena Tkachenko had been living in anxiety and anticipation of any news. Olena turned for help to a family friend, who had influence in the city. She expected that he could somehow negotiate with illegal armed formations. However, he came up with negative reply. "Family friend" even said that Tkachenko was a traitor: "He spied for Ukraine!"
The building of the captured SBU, 2014. Photo: AP Photo
Representatives of "LNR" invited her to the seized SBU building three days later - they decided to release her husband. He was handed over at night, so no one would see his injuries. They released him on one term that he would receive medical treatment at home and would return to them afterwards. After that, Tkachenko would be released in front of TV cameras so the local and Russian media would shoot a story about respect for human rights in the "republic". The woman was forbidden to go to the hospital not to leave evidence of torture that her husband suffered during illegal detention.
Despite this prohibition, Olena decided to go to the hospital - her husband's body looked like one big bruise. He suffered from a concussion, burns and multiple hematomas. Olena had no idea how such injuries could be healed without medical assistance “at home”.
At the hospital, Olena warned the doctor that she had specially registered her husband under a different name and surname - she added that she had reasons for this. He appointed an examination and seemed to agree to help. Olena's husband began a tomogram of the head and an ultrasound of the internal organs. After being tortured in the SBU building, he could barely keep his feet - it was extremely difficult for him to move between hospital rooms.
Olena recalled how the nurse was horrified when she gave the man a tomogram. It seemed that for the first time the doctors had seen a person with so much injuries.
After the examination, Olena was waiting for a doctor's appointment, who did not appear for a long time. The nurses said at first that the doctor was not on there; then - that he was in the staff room. When he came, Olena began to complain that her husband had not received timely assistance. However, the doctor's reaction was unexpected: “Why did you deceive me!” He exclaimed and pronounced the real name and surname of her husband.
At that moment, my worldview turned upside down. I am a generous person, but for the first time in my life I wanted to physically harm [the other] person. [...] It became clear to me why he did it, because he was just waiting for them. He called "LNR" forces from where the husband had just been released.
Olena and her husband hastly left the hospital. She contacted her friends and asked them to arrive as soon as possible. The same evening they took off to Kyiv by night train, without even saying goodbye to their relatives.
Olena is still trying to understand the motives of those residents of Luhansk, who turned her family into exiles. She could not believe that so many supporters of Soviet revenge had appeared in the city: “Does everyone really like walking in the same [dress]? Does everyone like to live in an environment, where someone always decides for you, and you have no vote at all?"
Elena still believe that kindness is an integral part of human nature. At the same time, it is difficult for her to understand how war and hatred plunged her city into twilight, and how everything good turned out to be under the yoke of lawlessness and anger.
Perhaps I need to learn to be angry, but I don't want to. I don’t want to be [evil] ... I believe that the majority of people are still generous. However, kindness does not always overcome hatred, I guess.
Article image: photo by blogger Fashik Donetskiy