Vladyslav is a Ukrainian man from the Kyiv Oblast in Ukraine who was badly beaten on December 31, 2013 on Bank Street in Kyiv. This is his story.
He is a truck driver. He is married and has three children. A daugher who is 17 another daughter is 8 and a son who is 18 months old. Although he feels better he can’t drive because of all the medication he takes. This makes him dizzy.
I asked him when he got involved in Maidan and what brought him to the brink of protesting. He said that from the beginning in 2004 he simply could not accept Yanukovych as his president. That fact that he chose not to vote for a partnership with the EU was the cherry on top. Vladyslav said he was so terribly dissappointed. Because he is a truck driver and his earnings depend on speed and efficiency in pick up and delivery, the time it takes to cross each border is such a drawback and effects his salary. He felt that not signing this partnership with EU stopped him from doing his job. Prior to that day he had hope that Ukraine would develop along the lines of Poland, and that gave everyone great hope. He would then be able to drive wherever necessary and he could make some money.
He then went on to explain that crossing the border to Russia is awful. Everytime he crosses, somethng wrong is found and he is fined. He reiterated that his happened each and everytime. I then asked where he worked, meaning did he drive his own truck or a company truck. He said it was impossible for him to have his own truck. Every truck company has been bought and there is no room for another. He would never be able to get a permit. Then on November 31st he happened to be listening to the news and heard, that Berkut was beating on the little ones. He then wen to see for himself and walked up to Bank street. He smiled when he said the little ones, because he said that is what we all call them. TIhey are our pride and joy, they are our students. When I got to Bank Street I was shocked at all the burning.
They had spilled the fuel and lit it. Then they were setting off fireworks and throwing grenades and other things. I started to walk up to the metal wall they had built. I walked up really close thinking it was Berkut. It wasn’t Berkut. It was the army, the Internal Army. The boys who are conscripted into this army are boys that have just turned 18. I saw I was looking into the eyes of children, he said. They were so frightened. I saw scared children with fright and tears in their eyes. They really aren’t even armed yet. One shouted at me “Diad’ku idit’ zvidsy”. Which is Uncle leave here…… This scared child told me to do this. You must understand he said, they take on an oath that they will not disobey orders, or they will be put up to defend themselves in military court and may be court marshalled. He then went on to say, I really wanted to talk but I saw I was dealing with kids, and that there really wasn’t anyone to talk to, so I turned around and started to leave.
There was a loud bang and sparks at my feet. It was one of those special grenades that are very very loud and cast a strong spark and light. It deafens and blinds you. I turned and saw that the little boys has separated and from behind them came the huge Berkut. These were the 2 meter tall big strong men in their 40’s. They are the ones who had been hiding behind the kids and were throwing the grenades and fire crackers. More exploded, and I lost my orientation for a few moments. There was a horrible ringing in my ears. It wouldn’t go away, he said. So I sat down. Suddenly they grabbed me under my arms. They had obviously already singled me out because I had walked up to the boys and wanted to talk to them. They started to escort me away. For some reason I thought they were ours and were taking me back to Maidan. But that wasn’t the case. They started to beat me and hit me over the head with the rubber batons.
Then they took me to a holding place in an enclosed yard and made me lie face down to the ground. I was very confused and really did not understand what was happening. I raised my eyes and saw at least two hundred large Berkut stand around me. They were all over the yard. They began to search me. I noticed there were no witnesses to what was happening. I also learned that this was not the local Berkut. This was the special force of Berkut from Krym (Crimea). After searching me they found that I had nothing. I had maybe 10 hryvnja’s in my pocket ID that I was the father of many children and had a wife and some cigarettes. I had no real money nor weapons and this angered them. They began to beat me with those batons. They pounded me all over my body everywhere. At first it seems to be a plain and simple rubber baton. It isn’t. The front of it is a flashlight. To light the flashlight it is loaded with 4 D batteries and it is about 40cm long with is about 16 inches in length. Then they hit me in the eye. He looked at me and said ‘Pani Halyu” which is a polite way of addressing me in Ukrainian, would you like to know how? By this time I could barely write. I felt so sorry for this man, and at the same time I was so happy he was alive and sitting at a table with his wife and with me and talking about this. I was so proud of him. I said of course please tell me.
He said, they told me to kneel down and hold my arms at my sides straight down. I was not allowed to raise my arms for any reason. When they shined the light in my eye I raised my arm to cover my eye. At that moment they hit me in the eye and in the face several times, then 5 of them jumped me and continued to pound me, and everytime I raised my arm to protect my face three more came to help with beating until I lost conciousness. I fell over. My last thoughts were, why are they doing this. I didn’t then and don’t know now why they hate they Kyyany so much. (Kyyany are citizens and residents of Kyiv). Why are they so mad at us. I chose mad because it is beyond anger it is a rage. As I lay on the ground they stepped on my head. They started to shout at me and yell and screamed you Kyiv billy goat you bray, you want to hear a real noise listen to the sound of a Krym boot/shoe grinding in your head. They kicked me in the head several times and then hand cuffed me. They took me to jail where they interrogated me for a long time.
During the time I was in jail my company fired me. My wife was forced to write an affidavite saying I voluntarily resigned. I am not working now, nor can I drive now with my wounds. We have to buy my medicine and I go to a doctor who is interested only in healing thank goodness. In school the teachers are fair to my children. There are families who are government affiliated and they do remark about things to my children.
We then noticed two men had come in and sat down near us and were listening so we changed the topic of conversation.
He told me another story about when he drove his truck to Germany once and at the border he stepped out to have a cigarette. The German police came and were what he thought was yelling at him and telling him he can’t smoke here only in designated areas. He put out his cigarette then put a 50 in his passport and handed it to the police. He thought he was doing the right thing because that is what you do when you travel from Ukraine to Russia. The Germans got mad and handcuffed him and arrested him. In the customes jail, a translator explained that was common practice where he came from. He apologized and they let him go.
He then said all his life he felt he was a middle class citizen. He did well in school, he held a job and took care of his family. On Sunday he went to church. This is what his parents had done and his grand parents. He was very proud of his family. They have been Kyyany for generations. When he went to the EU he felt he was not even a second class citizen but a third class. After all of this he felt he would like to take his family and leave Europe and move to Canada.
There is more to this story but we have to meet again in a different place.
February 5, 2014