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Continuing volunteer perform

His diary tells the tale of a civilian whose only fault was a continuous devotion to his state. Volodymyr experienced last taken up arms in his youth, whilst serving in the Soviet army. He was seriously beaten twice there, which experienced left him with everyday living-extended disabilities — challenges with his backbone and listening to.

Volodymyr suffered one more injuries, this time to the head, all through Ukraine’s 2014 revolution, which was why he did not provide in the Ukrainian military. Rather, he continued his writing and volunteer function.

“My volunteering started lengthy before these situations, but it was diverse, these as aiding folks with disabilities, and it did not quit for many many years […]. Nonetheless the combating arrived, like an offended viper crawling closer and closer to my hometown.”

Silence and humiliation

Volodymyr elevated his 14-calendar year-previous son Vitalik. The boy has a complicated form of an autistic dysfunction. He does not speak and wants consistent care. The boy’s mom, Iryna Novitska, misplaced the skill to walk three several years just after providing birth, so following the divorce, the family resolved that the boy would stay with his father.

The most hard matter less than profession was the lack of data

Volodymyr did not like to leave his son alone, even for a moment, so he took him just about everywhere with him: even when he started to produce help to soldiers at checkpoints. Each and every working day, they walked alongside one another for 5-20 kilometers. He gathered income to enable the army, like lots of many others, by social networks. And at times, an individual in the grocery store would come up to him inquiring to give soldiers a “package of goodies”, as he calls it in his diary.

The most tricky factor below profession was the deficiency of communication and understanding of the situation in the place.

He says in his diary: “The mayor hid from obligation, there was no connection at all, we didn’t even know if the metropolis was even now standing or taken by the enemy. There was unquestionably no information, a finish absence of communication with any authorities to someway clarify what was occurring in our village — there ended up several occupiers and checkpoints each and every 100 meters. They were being consistently hunting, even empty luggage. One more matter, I was terribly upset that my nerves could not stand this sort of humiliation.”

To stay or go?

The Vakulenkos, like other people of Kapitolivka, attempted to assess the predicament by the sounds of fighting.

“Those explosions that fearful a tiny at the starting of the war have been even satisfying to hear through the profession, depending on the way. If there were being battles, it indicates that the city is standing, it signifies that our boys are alive.”

The next toughest point was how to guarantee the stability of a teen with an extremely susceptible nervous procedure and clarify to him what was occurring. Volodymyr’s mother, Olena, says that throughout the 1st two months of the invasion, she continuously questioned her son to depart with her grandson, but he explained that he ought to stay and assistance our individuals, and also choose care of his father right after a stroke. And then it was too late.

“It would be particularly perilous for me, with my patriotic pro-Ukrainian views, to discover myself trapped in an enemy ring, but I experienced no alternative. I have a kid with a special perception of anything around him, who stopped any conversation with the outside the house world in the first days of March. In the conclusion, I now comprehended that all these explosions… would impact his autistic psyche as properly. […] Kharkiv has been bombed and its rebuilding will choose a long time.”


Natalia Ivashura, a specialist in doing the job with autistic teenagers and the mom of a 17-year-aged boy with an autistic condition, claims: “Since the commencing of the complete-scale war, numerous Ukrainians have felt a loss of manage above their life. Frankly talking, families of children with autism misplaced that control a extended time back. The point is that little ones with autism are more relaxed and successful in conditions that can be predicted… throughout war, this is practically unachievable.”

She continues: “The determination to evacuate is extremely hard for a lot of, for the reason that getting with this sort of a boy or girl in a international metropolis, in a international state is a rough obstacle. That is why some people stayed at dwelling, even if the settlement was occupied by enemies, mainly because a baby, for illustration, falls asleep only in his mattress… Normally it is difficult to persuade a child with autism to go into a bomb shelter, since there can be far too several sensory stimuli, and this will make the mom and dad feel helpless, unable to guard the little one and themselves.”

Whilst getting treatment of his son and father, Volodymyr ongoing to volunteer.

“Any form of heroism, these types of as halting an armored personnel provider, usually takes spot in major metropolitan areas, and we are a compact village, wherever the highest that can be performed is to gather patriotic people – no much more than 2-3 people today. I understood this for a extended time, so I lived as a hermit. I usually understood that I would be betrayed faster or later on, and as it turned out later on, there were being a good deal of informers.”

Olena states that her son was very ardent and, perhaps, even overly fearless. He confident fellow villagers to converse Ukrainian and not to belief Russian television. Someone from the locals, claims Olena, betrayed him to the occupiers. At first, the Russians stopped him on the street, checked him, browsing even empty baggage.


On March 22, five occupiers arrived to the lawn of Volodymyr’s father and requested: “Where is your nationalist?” They took telephones, files and Ukrainian books “for inspection”. The following day, Volodymyr and his son have been taken away. They forced them to undress and clearly show tattoos.

By evening, Volodymyr and his son were launched. They stated they would return the files the up coming day, but of class, they did not.

The next time the writer was taken away was on March 24. This time he did not return house.

“The files have been uncovered afterwards, on May well 12, in a purse together with the physique, shot via with a bullet,” claims Volodymyr’s ex-wife Iryna Novitska. “Volodymyr was picked up [after being released] by a volunteer from a group that drove the streets choosing up bodies. Some enemy tools was burning around the place where by the overall body was uncovered. And people Russians who arrived to place it out compensated notice to the system and permit the volunteers know. In the posthumous picture, the files are laid out in his arms, unfolded. I really do not know where they disappeared to later on.”

The second time the author was taken absent was on March 24. This time he did not return home. But before that, he buried his diary underneath a cherry tree in the garden.

Olena was searching for her son for months. She knocked on every single doorway of the occupation administrations and the so-identified as “militsiya”. At to start with, they explained to her “Don’t be concerned, we’ll allow him go, we are not Nazis”. Then they lied that they experienced no information and facts, but ended up on the lookout for it.

“When I came to the Russian armed service commandant again,” Olena claims, “he failed to even seem at me, he appeared above my head, somewhere at the wall: ‘We are doing work. We are searching’. And I comprehended that they all knew in which he was and what transpired to him. They were being just lying to my experience.”

In the autumn, the planet would explore that there were being 12 Russian torture chambers in Izyum.

Broken heart

While wanting for Volodymyr, the spouse and children tried using to endure. There experienced been just about no foods in the metropolis since the beginning of the profession. Vitalik practically died three moments, but the good news is survived.

Other writers discovered out about Volodymyr’s abduction on April 10, when his ex-spouse Iryna Novitska claimed it on Facebook. Considering the fact that then and until eventually the liberation of the occupied territories of the Kharkiv region in September, no a person had any speak to with Volodymyr’s family members in Kapitolivka. They did not even know that the occupiers, fortuitously, had promptly unveiled Vitalik. Human rights activists could only chat about Volodymyr’s situation on intercontinental platforms, but there was no way to look at the info and obtain proof.

Immediately after the liberation of the Izyum area, mass graves had been opened. In accordance to the reserve of information of the Izyum ritual assistance, the physique of Volodymyr Vakulenko is in grave No. 319. Olena, who lived in hope all that time, says her heart broke then.


Two bullets from a pistol have been discovered in Volodymyr’s human body. Head of the Investigation Division of the Kharkiv Region Police Serhiy Bolvinov declared the findings at the conclusion of November. Witnesses discovered bullet holes in the physique and in his files. The system experienced been on the road for extra than a thirty day period.

Birds chirp only in the early morning.

Olena does not know if Vitalik understands that his father is absent. She claims: “I nevertheless have not figured out how to demonstrate it to him, but when we communicate about Volodymyr, he gets pretty nervous.”

An entry from Volodymyr’s diary reads:

“At to start with, I dreamed of numbers, aged calendars, my mates and boys (*Ukrainian troopers), as if I were hugging them, meeting them. I’m worried to feel what took place to them. In the first days of the occupation, I gave up a minimal for the reason that of my fifty percent-starved condition in common. Now I have pulled myself with each other, even labored in the backyard garden a minor and brought potatoes into the home. Birds chirp only in the early morning… At last, in the night, songs on my cell mobile phone will save me. And currently, on the Day of Poetry, a little flock of cranes congratulated me from the sky, seeming to say: ‘Everything will be Ukraine!’ I believe that in victory!”

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