“.. he turned around, wiped away his tears and departed. He knew where he was going.

On your wedding day. Near the fountain near Lesya Ukrainka Park, Lutsk, 2011.

Photo: from the personal archive of the Ishchuk family

Volodymyr Ishchuk, codename “Kushch”, “Svitiaz”

Was deadly wounded in Ilovaisk on August 26, 2014

Natalia Ishchuk, Volodymyr’s wife:
I had no idea that he had registered himself there. Before he had to leave he just informed me about that. “Svitiaz” was leaving Lutsk on August 13, and one week before he had told me that he was leaving.

During the Maidan events men organized a checkpoint near Lutsk since an international road is going right through the city. He was standing there too. I know that when there was an assault on the Office of Public Prosecutor he was also taking part in it. Then they had some training in Sokyrychi.

He was telling me that they were supposed to have the training in the region. He never even mentioned the word “police”. I had no idea that he entered the police. Volodia celebrated his birthday on August 14 and our son Stasyk – on August 16. “Svitiaz” was leaving for the East on the 13th, so he celebrated his birthday already there. He turned 30. And Stas turned 3. Anechka was only 9 months old. (Stas and Ania are the children of Ishchuk family – edit.).

They had to leave before the noon, but actually they left only at 8 in the evening. Mom says that she went to see him off, and he turned around, wiped away his tears and departed. He knew where he was going.

Before sending to the “ATO zone”. August 2014. Photo: from the personal archive of the Ishchuk family

I didn’t know that he was in Ilovaisk. He was saying that they were not allowed to tell others their location. When they entered Ilovaisk on the 19th he told me that they were 20 km away from Donetsk without mentioning the exact place. 

The last time we talked was on August 25. Before he was wounded he had called me. It was noon and I went to the store to buy some bread. We were talking very briefly, only for some minutes. He was only asking about us, about the children and mother.

The same day he called his brother Myroslav, and the godfather of one of our children. As I understand now at that day they were somewhere near the depot or engine room where they had their checkpoint. From there he was calling us.

The only thing he was saying was that they were being heavily shot.

The next day he didn’t call, although before he had called every day. I knew he had to call and it was weird for me why he wasn’t calling. That day he died at about 11.00. At that time I was in the children’s care center presenting the documents that he was on combat duty in Volyn region, because without the documents our child couldn’t be accepted to the care center. So I brought that certificate, after I met his friend. He is our neighbor. He was asking me about Vovka. He started asking when he had called last. Then he said: “We have watched a video, they showed one very similar, but perhaps it wasn’t him”.

There appeared a video when his war friends were carrying him from the school to the basement. That was the video they had watched. At that time I hadn’t watched it, they showed it to me later.

I came home and turned on TV. The news was about Ilovaisk; later there was a protest near the Office of the President (requiring sending some aid to Ilovaisk – edit.). The whole day I was sitting and watching. My mother-in-law came to ask for something and I harshly replied her something. I was looking and looking at my cell phone. “Why aren’t you calling??”
That day, August 26th, we were told nothing. However, as I had understood they knew about everything at the Village Council. On August 27th when his sister went to a store, she was stopped and expressed compassion. That’s how we learned. 

She came home and told us everything. I was saying: “How come? They should have informed us! A person had died and no one said a word? It can’t be true.” I refused to believe in that. 

Natalia Ishchuk, Vladimir’s wife. The home of the parents of Maxim Lyashuk, also killed in Ilovaisk. Ostrozhets village, Volyn region. August 2017. Photo by Maks Levin

My mother-in-law suggested going to MIF and asking there. Valia said she would go. I said I wouldn’t go as they had had to inform us. I didn’t want to go but finally we went. When we were at a stop our child’s godfather approached and was asking: “Why do you look like that? Has something happened?” I said that if he knew something he had to tell me. He is very good friends with the head of our village council, and the council was informed, they all knew it, but no one told me. Our priest was called and informed, on the evening of the 26th he already knew everything, but he also couldn’t tell us.

We came to the police office; there was their personnel manager Anatoliy Vlasenko with some lists, he was looking for something. Some people were standing near him and talking about something. We came up and asked whom we could approach to learn about the fighters from “Svitiaz”. “Whom are you interested in?”, – he asked. I said: “Ishchuk”. He asked again: “Volodymyr?” “Yes, Ishchuk Volodymyr Stepanovych”, – I replied.

“He died”.

That’s it! No compassion, nothing. I looked at him: “How died?” Valia started crying. “Where can I take his body from?”, – I asked. He replied: “We will inform you about everything”, he wrote down my cell phone number, turned away and went somewhere.

Vladimir is assisted in the basement of the school. Ilovaisk, August 26, 2014. Photo: Markiian Lyseiko

As far as I know Vova was taken away from Ilovaisk on evening 26th, when all the wounded were taken away. To Volnovakha. Perhaps there was a morgue.

I don’t remember much, I was shocked. They were taken to three different morgues. Ours went there to look for them. But at first he was brought to Volnovakha, as I remember it was the closest location.

There were some fighters from “Svitiaz”, who were guarding on the way to Ilovaisk, 10 of them were still alive. These fighters came to the morgues to recognize the others. I don’t know why but they said that my husband had died on August 25. All the certificates I have and the certificate about death indicate August 25.

He was wounded on the 25th at 17.00 (5 p.m.) when leaving the checkpoint, Fatsevych was taking them away; and he was the last one. Some said that he was behind the group, that he went out of foliage; others said that he stayed to cover. I don’t know where the truth is. 

At the checkpoint there were ten of them. I cannot recall all the last names. Sviatoslav Romaniuk was the first to be wounded. They said that Vova was helping him to approach the car to be taken away. Romaniuk told him to sit into the car but he replied that would stay to cover. For some reason he stayed and was waiting for the whole group. For some reason he was coming last, as I understand he was covering them.

When he fell down, Misha Biletskyi noticed him. He was the one leaving before Vova, he was running to the car. So he saw him, came back for him, took him and escorted to the car. Then they brought him to the school. To the morgue he was brought without any belongings, only in his underwear.

Murka, a Donbass doctor, helps the injured in the basement of the school. Ilovaisk. Photo: Markiian Lyseiko

“Murka” was talking with me (“Murka” – a medical worker of “Donbas”, she was providing Volodymyr with medical assistance in the school basement, where the headquarters of the volunteer battalion was located). I don’t know where she could find strength to call me and talk with me: I was crying and she was crying. She told me how she was near him. How she was running upstairs, calling her friend surgeon, asking how to do a necessary cut. His medical conclusion indicates: shrapnel wound of the abdomen with the rupture of the internal organs. The hole was very little, like from a bullet. Everyone who saw it, Sasha Dok saw it, said that it was a bullet. But what has been written is written.

He was saying that he wouldn’t make it till the morning. Then “Murka” was approaching the commander of “Donbas”, Filin. She was asking him to let Vova go. She was saying that she had a dress and she could change her clothes like they were civilians, a husband and a wife, in order to take him away from there. Before that they had taken away one woman to a hospital in Khartsyzk and thus they managed to save her.

Sasha (Dok – edit.) was sitting next to him. Then he went out and said that Vovka had passed away. They made him drink a bottle of vodka in order to calm down. No one expected it would happen like that. He was the first to die from “Svitiaz”.

They told me that he had said: “Tell my wife and children that I was fighting till the end”.

My husband is buried in Pidhaitsi village, Lutsk region. The first five were buried together, and it took very long to find the others.

The funeral of Vladimir Ischuk. September 2014, the village of Pidhaytsi, Lutsk district. Photo: from the personal archive of the Ischuk family.

Because of the shock I cannot recall the order of the events. At that time I wasn’t talking with our children. I was not taking him back home. His brother went, and sister and my sister. I can hardly recollect those days. But I remember Stasyk (the son – edit.) approaching my sister. He said: “Granny is crying, perhaps my father was killed at the war”. This I remember clearly. Anechka was very small, she could understand nothing. Now she has problems talking. I think this is because of the stress, at that time she was a nurseling, I was breastfeeding her.

Volodia’s mother was upbringing three children by herself. Her husband died when she was 35. She was left a widow with three children. So she was taking care for them by herself. It was very difficult. She remembers that. She knows that I have two children but nevertheless she was saying that I was the person who had sent him there, although I was telling her the opposite and proving a lot. When he was leaving I was asking him not to leave. But no exhortation could reach him. It was his decision. Men…you have to obey and that’s it.

The funeral of Vladimir Ischuk. Son Stas in a blue jacket with her grandmother Mary (Mommy’s mother) in her arms, and next to her stands Natalia’s mother.
September 2014, the village of Pidhaytsi, Lutsk district. Photo: from the personal archive of the Ischuk family.

My mother-in-law was once telling that a gipsy had told her fortunes that it had been necessary to turn the military away from him. She had thought that it had had connection with the army. When he was in the army he wanted to sign a contract there. So they were collecting different documents not to let him go there. She was sure that something might happen there, but she never thought about this, that probably some danger might be here. Ilovaisk was the first event with so many losses. It was hard to believe that everything was so serious. Generally, everyone was telling us only nice things – that that was police, that they had an absolutely different purpose. They weren’t supposed to be there. He was also calming me: we would go for cleaning of the town only after the separatists would have been thrown away from there. He was saying that he was to be the last in the tactical group.

Talking about one-time payments I must say that Petro Petrovych Shpyha from the MIA has helped a lot: drawing up the documents, etc., and people from the Social security office have come. The majority of the documents – to receive the payment, we submitted to the MIA. We have received all one-time payments. Also I receive a payment for children from the MIA. Speaking about an apartment, I was refused to be included to the waiting list, so I couldn’t apply but there is no problem. Once they have sent us to rest at the sea, in 2015, we went to Koblevo, but nowhere else from that time. Last year we received some calls suggesting help from the volunteers, but if to mention a health resort – nothing.  

I was approaching the Social security office asking for a possibility for the children to improve their health. Our son has heart problems. The children are very often ill during the winter time, so it would be great to improve their health at the sea. The first time I was refused at the Social security office, they said that I had no connection to them. Your husband went not through the Military registration and enlistment office. They went as volunteers from the MIA, so you should address the MIA trade union.

Vova attended our church. He often prayed. He had a prayer book with him. The Moscow Orthodox church is near our house and the priest is his friend, they both are of the same age. They were friends; he was helping a lot near the church: to mow grass, plant trees, he was singing at the church choir. And this same priest was burying him.

Before he left he was telling me: “If something happened, the state would take care of you”.As if he knew everything in advance. I know that head of the MIA Petro Shpuha tried to refuse him saying: “You have two children, where are you going?”

Vova attended our church. He often prayed. He had a prayer book with him. The Moscow Orthodox church is near our house and the priest is his friend, they both are of the same age. They were friends; he was helping a lot near the church: to mow grass, plant trees, he was singing at the church choir. And this same priest was burying him.

I believe that God sees everything from the heavens. I believe that if not here then there they (the Russians – edit.) will suffer for everything they are doing.