Story 18: Oleksandr
Oleksandr, a 25-year-old man with disabilities, lived peacefully in a nursing house in Kakhovka, Kherson region. Even in the first 8 months of the full-scale war, despite shelling and air raid alarms, he had a serene life. Until on November 5, Oleksandr together with other residents of the nursing house were forcibly deported.
The Russian occupation authority told the nursing house resident it was just a mere evacuation to save their lives. Though there was no danger and no need in such “evacuation”. Oleksandr was against this and asked the occupation authority if he could stay in the nursing house. The answer was, “If that is the case, we will force you into the bus and send you to Russia anyway.” Oleksandr and 200 other nursing house residents had no choice but to be deported.
They were all put in buses heading to Jankoy, a resort town in Crimea. Then they were taken by train to Voronezh Region and split up among different nursing homes. Oleksandr remembered the exact location of the place he was sent against his will: Voronezh Region, Gribanovsky District, Lower Karachan Village. It was November 7, 2022.
In the new nursing home to which Oleksandr was sent, he was bullied for his Ukrainian ethnicity. The Russian repeatedly said he was a Nazi. In winter, the staff started isolating the nursing house. First, they surrounded it with a high fence, then installed bars on the windows. Oleksandr heard the rumours that this nursing house will change its status to an asylum. It was a sign to find ways to get away.
Oleksandr somehow contacted volunteers from Europe and asked for help. Around the end of January 2023, he, together with two of his friends who also were deported, fled Russia thanks to volunteers. Now they are safe in Norway, but the horrors of forcible deportation remain with Oleksandr. He says it was a miracle he escaped.