On the Chopping Block

Chapter 6  

April 14, 2014 was a turning point for the town of Dzerzhinsk, about 300 people had gathered at the town square, in front of the ‘White House’.  Twenty to 30 shouted about the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), as many others, just stood there listening.  I even think that some were just out there to observe what was going on, not that they were ‘for or against’ something, but more for curiosity of the situation.  The 20-30 were waving flags, and chanting, and cheering as different city officials, and other overtly loud citizens took turns at the microphone spewing their diatribe about how the situation in Kyiv was terrible, people were losing their ‘rights’ as Russians, that the DPR was a good thing, and that the Ukraine flag should be removed from our ‘White House’ and replaced with that of the DPR.  People just stood there, speechless; not really believing what this radical woman with purple hair was spewing from her mouth.  Then, as under the authority of nothing more then a mob of people, as the mayor had basically excused himself from the podium, a man went running towards the ‘White House’ in the background.  Finding the steps to the roof, he ran to the front of the building, where he promptly removed the Ukrainian flag from our ‘White House’, throwing it off the roof, and a Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) flag was raised.  Shocked at what I was seeing, but I knew that I could not speak up, though I have been in Dzerzhinsk for 16 years, still I’m considered a ‘guest’, and must act as such.  Additionally, not knowing ‘who’ was in the crowd, I needed to be careful of what I said, and how I said, and to ‘whom’ I said, ‘what’ to.  Watching this unfold before my eyes, I studied the faces of those around me, people didn’t know how to respond, or even ‘if’ to respond.  No one really knew how others that were also standing quietly and watching, felt about the situation.  I wonder to this day, had some resisted, if others would have followed their lead, or physically jumped on those people…but just what would have happened, if someone would have taken an initiative and said something.  I did notice that anyone that got to the microphone and started to question the mob, and those who spoke against the DPR, were quickly removed from the stage area. This, in itself, was probably indicative enough to show others that they needed to stay quiet or something could happen to them.   And of course, then basically the whole town knows ‘which side’ you are on, and anything could ‘happen’ to you, at any time or place in the future.  The people finally disbursed, and we went home, oblivious what this event meant for our future. 

Within days, the few barriers around our town were removed, and more and more separatists freely appeared, setting up living quarters in the local technical school.  If they needed something, they freely took it, whether it be a place to stay, or food to eat.  Vehicle check points to review everyone’s documents were set up around town, as they took over public governmental offices, some workers fled in fear, others tried to maintain their jobs.  Those that resisted, were just physically removed to the street.  Our local police did absolutely nothing, appearing to have relinquished all control and power to the uninvited ‘guests’; there was complete lawlessness in the town.   Some people, like our local dentist was kidnapped and held for 200,000gh ransom.  A wealthy man, he was taken from his office, with waiting patients aghast, no one had any idea if he was dead or alive.   The separatists needed money to fund ‘their war’,  for them, anyway to get it,  was fine.  Banks were taken over, and thankfully, we had removed all our money prior to the take over.  Our streets were filled with half dressed ‘soldiers’, flanking machine guns.  Many were rude, crude, and drunks…others were strangely polite, as though they knew what they were doing was ‘wrong’, but that they felt they had no choice. Possibly they got caught up in something that they had no idea ‘what’ exactly it was, and now they don’t know what to do.   I knew at least 2 men that were in the separatists group, both formerly from the orphan shelter, and now adults, I saw them on the street, they nodded at me, but, when they didn’t actually stop to talk to me, I took it as a ‘sign’ that maybe it was best that they don’t formerly acknowledge me, as that may draw attention to me and them.  I appreciated that, that they didn’t  bring any attention to me…the obvious ‘non-native’, yet in a potentially volatile situation.   I hoped and prayed that would help protect me from the harm the separatists were unleashing on others.    It was rumored, that ‘newbie’s’ initiation to the ‘group’ was to kill innocent civilians.  I shuttered to think if that was the truth, but kept to myself, and only ventured out once a week for groceries.  I did not go out after 7 p.m., as many nights we would hear arguing, shouting on the streets, and even gunfire.  Angela, the missionary that was there with me, and I hovered together, continuing to pray for that Godly hedge of protection surround us from all evil.   There was no predictability in the government officials, daily life, food, banks, schools; what would be open or closed.  Daily, we would conduct ourselves, as much as possible, as ‘business as usual’ kids would come to the center, we had activities, Bible study, Sunday church, though all the while, separatists would walk down our street, guns on the shoulders, seeking out men; for ‘what’ we didn’t know, but we didn’t want to ask either.   Door to door, or shouting a name from the road, as if to be ‘calling them out’ for ‘service’ or get their political stance on the situation, then they would either ‘join’ them, or beat them, or worse for resisting.  It was a terrible time.  We would walk children home after center activities, even with gun fire in the backdrop.  During ‘center time’ we kept our gates locked at all times, and children would need to ring the bell for entrance, instead of coming and going as usual.   We could see the behavior changes in the children, they were terrified when shooting in the distance would start, many would race out the door, running scared all the way home, not even waiting for us to take them home.    Some started to be aggressive towards one another, others withdrawn, quiet, sullen.  Adults would come to the center, and say, ‘I feel safe here…and I stay here while you are open’.  We would allow for this, as our center is incased with scripture, we have a Bible in our foundation; if people saw us as a refuge, we could not forbid.  Sunday services started to swell, some people seeking God, while others grew angry with the situation.  Emotions were all over the place as the chaos grew. 

After 3 months of the stress, I had to go home for a short break.  I could not leave Angela for more then 10-14 days, so I made a ticket for the end of June, returning July 11. 

Leave a Comment