We returned to our table to find Vlad’s uncle waiting for us, pretending to be angry about the unfinished plates. Being half Italian, he did an hilarious impersonation of those Mafiosi from the old movies, asking us why we don’t like the food and if we want to ruin the reputation of his restaurants. New plates with delicious food were brought, we ate with the family and enjoyed our dinner, laughed. Life goes on, even though not for all. Afterwards, my girlfriend decided to return to the hotel and I stayed with Vlad to hear the end of his story. We went outside with some drinks and a box of cigars from Vlad’s uncle.
Victims get arrested
After the badly wounded and some of the dead were brought outside, the police entered the building and started to place the survivors under arrest, bringing them out and pushing them into waiting busses, cheered by the crowds. The same police that stepped away when the Pravy Sektor tugs started their assault on the building, the police that at first refused to protect the Medical and Emergency Services, was now arresting the survivors, the victims of this horrible massacre. When the members of the Emergency Services started to understand that the police intended to arrest all the survivors, they quickly gave some of the survivors their uniform jackets, helmets, ID’S, etc. and told them to pretend to be members of the team. They managed to smuggle around 20 survivors out like this. Our group was around 30 people so roughly 50 escaped.
The numbers vary in reports but I estimate that there were between 200 and 250 people inside the building when the assault and inferno started. With 50 people escaped, that leaves 150-200 people who either died or were arrested when they didn’t die. Some say 60 people died inside the building, others say up to 100 people died and as far as I know, another 13 people died in the following days of their injuries. According to the doctor, most of them could have survived if they would have gotten timely medical treatment. Just like my cousin…
Continue reading The #Odessa Massacre – Part 4: The Aftermath
We sat there in silence, playing with our food. There wasn’t a word of comfort I could come up with and I didn’t want to disturb Vlad in his thoughts. My girlfriend broke the silence by asking if my feet were cold and I nodded. She knows about what happens, she is there for me when the phantom pains drive me up the wall and she calms me when I endure the explosion over and over again in my nightmares. Her question must have caught Vlad’s attention and interrupted his thoughts because he asked me “what feet, you don’t have feet?”. I told Vlad about what happened with me and we both laughed nervously when he told me that he had always thought that I was born this way. Vlad and I worked together when I was still denying my fate and in that time I never mentioned to him or anyone else what happened or my life before it happened.
The waiter came by and we ordered some local wine. Vlad asked me if I wanted to change the topic but I declined, wanted to hear his story no matter how traumatic it was and is, knowing that Vlad still had to tell us what he knew about his cousin. Vlad agreed but decided to go outside for a smoke first, snoring a pack of cigarettes from his uncle who owns the restaurant. When he returned I told him that I didn’t know he was smoking, when we worked together I have never seen him smoke. Vlad said he didn’t and doesn’t but somehow it seemed like a good idea at that moment. When he coughed, we all laughed the tension away somehow and we knew we were ready to continue.
Continue reading Odessa Massacre – Part 3: Interview with a survivor (2/2)
We meet in the back of a restaurant. For a moment I feel like in an old spy movie and my friend must have noticed that this makes me nervous, with a smile he tells me not to worry. “We are safe here”, a sentence I have heard a lot during my stay in Crimea but this time it means much more to me. This time it means my friend feels safe here. I can’t put to words how happy I am to finally see my friend in person and in safety, more than a year after the horrible Massacre of Odessa which changed his life permanently. Here he sits, smiling, greeting me, looking at my fancy wheelchair with the skilled eye of a technician. Luck and what I believe to be Divine Intervention in the bravery of some bystanders are the reasons why my friend is still alive and happy to meet me on this summer day.
Brave enough to talk about the events of that day and evening but worried about his family still living in Ukraine, we decide to call my friend Vlad, although we both know this is not his real name. Vlad still has family members in and around Odessa and Vlad knows that Ukrainian authorities have given them a hard time to tell them where he is. Vlad is on a wanted list because he survived the Odessa Massacre, officially only for questioning, but Vlad knows that those who have reported to the Ukrainian authorities for this so called questioning have all been arrested. Ukrainian authorities are even so ruthless that they have arrested family members of some of the organizers “for their own protection” although none of them want to be “protected” by Ukraine.
Vlad agrees to publish his story, wants his story to be told as long as it doesn’t cause any problems for his family and friends. I look at the eyes of this strong man and see genuine fear when he speaks about his family and friends, about his concerns. This is Vlad’s story in his words, approved by Vlad for publication and Vlad approves distributing his words on the internet.
Continue reading The #Odessa Massacre – Part 2: Interview with a survivor (1/2)
People will respond different when confronted with traumatic experiences and emotions. Some will be silent for a while, locked inside themselves with their thoughts. Others will scream and shout to express their feelings, anger or frustration. When I am confronted with emotional trauma, two things happen. The first thing that happens is that I become unaware of my surroundings and I stop caring that everything is in the right place. Anyone who knows me, knows that this is very strange behavior for me. The second things that happens is that I start to feel my feet, the feet I don’t have any more for over a decade. This might be difficult to imagine but I literally feel my feet turn cold and I already know that when I will be finally able to sleep, my night will be disrupted by phantom pains and nightmares of the explosion.
The evening of 2 May 2014 started very nice for me and nothing pointed at having my feet turn cold that day. After a good wheel-tennis tournament in which I managed to finish in 3rd place, my friends and I went to our favorite fish-restaurant overlooking the harbor of Amsterdam. When the food was being served, I noticed an incoming call from a friend in Odessa but I decided to call him back after dinner. A decision I still regret! We enjoyed our food and some nice wine and when we left the restaurant I remembered the missed call and tried to call my friend back. Busy signal, it took me some attempts before I could finally reach him.
They are killing us! Our people are burning, they are killing us!
A very hectic conversation, panic and fear in his voice. Bits and pieces of what has happened and what was happening. My feet turned cold while trying to understand what my friend was telling me. A protest and a counter-protest escalated, people locked up in a building, shots fired, fire everywhere, the building set on fire with people inside. Many died, didn’t know how many but must be many. Escaped with his younger brother, beaten by hooligans. Cousin still missing, very worried and afraid.
Continue reading The Odessa Massacre – Part 1: Traumas and emotions
When Nazi-Germany attacked Europe, it had clearly separated strategies for Western Europe and Scandinavia on the one hand and Eastern Europe on the other hand. The Western European Nations were to be conquered and submitted under the rule of German Supremacy and cleansed of all unwanted populations, the so called “subhumans”. The strategy of Nazi-Germany for Western Europe and the Scandinavian countries was based on the believe that the population would rapidly accept the German rule and the Arian-supremacy. For Western Europe and Scandinavia, Nazi-Germany set out these objectives:
- Cleans all countries of unwanted “subhuman” population.
- Submit France, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Scandinavia in a Blitz-Krieg and place these countries under German ruling with focus on acceptance of being part of the 3rd Reich.
- Defeat England within 6 months.
For Eastern Europe, Nazi Germany set out an entirely different strategy. Eastern Europe was what Nazi-Germany considered “Lebensraum”, badly needed place to extend the 3rd Reich eastwards and benefit from its fast agricultural potential, resources and workforce. After concurring the Eastern countries, the intention of Nazi-Germany was to have the Slavic race serve the Nazis as labor force. Hitler and his likes determined that to submit the Slavic populations and countries, they would have to achieve the following major objectives:
- Cleans Slavic countries of unwanted “subhuman” population.
- Reduce the Slavic population to the required amount as workforce.
- Defeat the strongest opponent in Europe: The Soviet Union.
These different objectives explain the brutality with which Nazi-Germany and its Allies operated in Eastern-Europe and the parts of the Soviet Union it conquered in the first year of their eastbound quest. The further east the Nazi-German troops wend, the harder the unbridled brutality against the population became, reaching the climax in Poland, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. And puzzling in any way imaginable, the further east the Nazi-Germans and Allies conquered countries, the stronger the propaganda of “liberators from the Soviet Union” seemed to work. Especially in Western-Ukraine, the Nazi occupiers were welcomed and millions joined the armed forces as volunteers. Continue reading The Odessa Massacre – How History repeated itself!