Story 18: Oleksandr
Oleksandr, a 25-year-old man with disabilities, resided in a nursing home in Kakhovka, Kherson region. For the first seven months of the full-scale war, he lived relatively peacefully, despite frequent shelling and air raid alarms. His life took a perilous turn when the Russian occupation regime installed a new, pro-Kremlin staff and director. The new director decided to “evacuate” all the residents to Russia under the guise of “safety reasons,” which was, in reality, forced deportation.
When Oleksandr objected and asked the new staff if he could remain in the nursing home or at least stay in Kakhovka, he was bluntly told, “If that’s the case, we will force you onto the bus and send you to Russia anyway.” Oleksandr and the other 200 residents had no choice but to comply.
They were all loaded onto buses bound for Dzjankoi, a resort town in Russia-occupied Crimea. From there, they were transported by train to Voronezh Region and distributed among various nursing homes. Oleksandr specifically recalled being sent to a facility in the Gribanovsky District of Voronezh Region, in the village of Lower Karachan, on November 7, 2022.
In the new nursing home, Oleksandr was subjected to bullying due to his Ukrainian ethnicity. The Russians repeatedly accused him of being a Nazi.
During the winter, the staff began fortifying the nursing home. First, they erected a high fence around the facility, and then they installed bars on the windows. Oleksandr heard rumors that the nursing home would soon be converted into an asylum, which signaled to him that he needed to find a way out.
While Oleksandr did not disclose how he managed to contact volunteers from Europe, he did succeed in getting help from abroad. Around the end of January 2023, he and two friends, who had also been deported, were able to escape Russia thanks to these volunteers. They are now safe in Norway, but the traumatic experience of forcible deportation continues to haunt Oleksandr. He considers his escape to be nothing short of a miracle.