DIANA, 74, TORTURED AND BEATEN FOR THREE HOURS BY THE SBU
In the sad litany of Donbass martyrs, here is the story of Diana Prokofevna Nikiforova, a resident of the Liman region, born in 1941. Like the vast majority of the population of the surrounding area, she had participated in the May 2014 referendum, which was organized throughout Donbass and met with immense popular fervor. The issue was simple, the proclamation of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the separation of Ukraine, which had gone mad after the American Maidan revolution. She never thought things would turn out the way they did, with Kiev sending in troops and retaliatory battalions, assassinations, massacres and war. Born during the Second World War in the midst of the occupation by Nazi Germany, this child of the Donbass was reliving the same events more than 70 years later. Her determination to be Russian, having experienced the golden age of the USSR, was not weakened, even after she was arrested by the SBU political police and tortured.
Gobartchev and his clique betrayed us and destroyed our country. She had had the misfortune to see the ultranationalists arrive, with their weapons, their tanks, sometimes with their western Ukrainian accent, threatening and shouting. At her age, all the poor woman had had as a weapon was a ballot for freedom. She was told that she was a member of a sub-race in Ukraine, that of the Russians, whose language was no longer recognized, whose history and civilisation were being mocked. She said: ‘I was born in the Donbass, to a modest family, and I have lived in the region all my life. I was from a family of three children, my father working hard and my mother being a housewife. I went to the University of Donetsk where I studied to become an engineer and a construction specialist. All my life I have worked in public administration, developing projects and constructions of various public buildings and structures. I myself got married, I had my children, we lived with my husband very happily.
The fall of the USSR was a tragedy for us, we had lived well and we understood that we were going to live in very difficult times. Gorbachev and his clique were traitors for us, the blow was dealt by the West and although everything was not perfect, there were many positive things during the Soviet Union. Then came Ukraine, with its slow degradation. We have seen the corruption, the oligarchs, the suffering of the little people, the collapse of our standard of living in a rich country, especially here in the Donbass. I have seen with concern the rise of fascism and nationalism in Western Ukraine. The compromise and incompetence of our presidents, even their betrayal as after Yushchenko came to power in 2005. I was already retired, and we had left Donetsk with my husband to return to our roots, here in the Liman region. It was with hope that I voted for Yanukovych in 2010, we thought it was better for us, he was a child of Donbass. When the second Mayan arrived in the winter of 2013-2014, I realized that something serious was going to happen, especially after he fled in February 2014 in the face of the rioters and ultranationalists. The rest you know ».
Denounced, wrongly accused and tortured by the Ukrainian political police. Diana continues her story, she clutches the newspaper Komsolmoskaya Pravda in her hands, she proudly tells me that it was an article by Yulia Andrienko who drew her portrait and wrote her story. She then recounts the hell she went through following a denunciation, until now she does not know who: “After the arrival of the Nazis and Ukrainian nationalists, we lived in expectation. I continued to watch Russian broadcasts, even though this was forbidden by Kiev. It was risky, but at my age you don’t fear anything, not even death. I didn’t take part in the resistance in Donbass, but one day in December 2015, they came for me with several cars and a van. It was still dark, it was around 5 a.m. when they broke down my door and rushed at me like fury.
There were masked SBU soldiers with automatic weapons, and then officers in civilian clothes who told me they were SBU agents. They turned my house upside down for five hours. I was not violated immediately, they were verbally abusive, shouting insults and orders. They asked if I had participated in the referendum, I said yes and that it was my right. They looked angry and asked me where the USB sticks were. They told me that I was passing on information to the insurgents of both republics on USB sticks, that I was a separatist, not to mention the vile insults. Their eyes through the bonnets and masks were evil and I knew I was at risk. They found nothing, despite their intensive search, and then they asked me where my computer was, I said it was being repaired in a shop in Liman. They then loaded me into a van, we picked up the computer, and then they drove me to Mariupol, where immediately after my arrival I was taken down to a cellar.
There were four men, big guys with their faces uncovered. They beat me for three hours, on the body and especially on the head, with their fists. After a while I had no strength left, even to answer their stupid questions, and I fainted. They then dragged me to a dungeon and I was taken to a prison. There were only common prisoners there, they felt sorry for me when they saw my condition. But I was lucky because somehow my case was reported to the Red Cross.
The very next day, a woman and a man from this organisation came with an interpreter to tell me that I would not be beaten any more, and that if I had any problems I could call on them. Indeed, even though I was interrogated again for 15 days and taken back to the SBU HQ in Mariupol, I was never taken down to the cellar again. They didn’t get anything out of me because I had never been a member of the resistance, nor had I passed on any USB keys. After that, I stayed in prison for 8 months, the food was terrible, I had a public defender. As there was nothing concrete against me, the computer had given away no secrets, so I was acquitted at my trial and immediately released. But I never received an apology, or even compensation for all those months in prison. I went home and like everyone else I prayed for the Russians to arrive.
What a great joy the day they arrived! It was last June, I would have embraced everyone, despite the destruction and the long weeks in the cellars in the dark and under the bombardments ».
Diana ends her story by telling me that she is still a communist and that she will not change her opinion at 81 years old. She explains to me that her opinion is that Russia should not stop at Novorossia, but that it should go further to totally destroy the ultranationalists even in their nest in Lvov. With harsh words, but without hatred, she continues to explain her vision of things to me, while thanking a thousand times “the boys of Russia” and President Vladimir Putin for finally coming to free them from the Ukrainian occupation.
“She had been living in a small village close to the large forest of the Sviatogorsk National Park, which is now far too dangerous for her to return to. She lived in a small village close to the great forest of the Sviatogorsk National Park, now far too dangerous for her to return. She was taken in with other refugees in a comfortable house belonging to a wealthy person who preferred to leave for Europe, but who, on leaving, entrusted the key to his house to a former policeman, asking him to make the house available so that the poorest people could live there in safety and shelter. Relatively safe, as the front line is only a few blocks away, and for part of the night I spent with them, shells were falling here and there. “I am convinced that they will never be able to come back here, when our boys have chased them away it will be for ever,” she ends by gracing me with her most beautiful smile.
Laurent Brayard for Donbass Insider
Translation: Vz. yan for Donbass Insider