Roma currently lives in Donetsk. He is 35 years old and has cerebral palsy, which is why he has difficulties talking and moving. However, instead of being a person with special needs, he has become a man with special abilities: he evacuates peaceful residents from the combat zones.
Texty Media found this man and presents his story with no further comments. Here it is:
Where would I go? I was born here. I love Donetsk; it’s my homeland. I am Ukrainian. No, of course I don’t want Donetsk to become part of Russia! And if it did, I would leave for Ukraine. But for now, why would I leave? I want to do something good [while I can].
Once someone asked if anyone could drive a person from Snizhne to Krasnoarmiisk. I came up to them and said: “I want to do it, only I don’t have money for fuel.” I have been driving people for two weeks, now.
In my 35 years of life in Donbas, I couldn’t find a job because of my disability. In the ordinary times I simply didn’t have much to do. But in times of this unfortunate war, it turns out that I am capable of doing something.
I don’t want to leave [Donbas]. However, yesterday I was greatly frightened.
I was in Shahtarsk yesterday. I went there to pick up an elderly man. This was when the DPR [Donetsk People’s Republic] bandits captured me. They held me at gun point. Their first question was somewhat stupid: “Are you a Baptist?” Shocked and frightened, I said, “no.”
I asked what did being a Baptist have to do with anything? And they said: “These are our main sworn enemies, they are the agents of America.” They threw me inside my car and drove off with me sitting in the back seat, the two of them were sitting in front. They threatened to take me to the regional administration building.
There was a bus full of children and elderly women moving behind us. There were also criminals on that bus, who were carrying guns. It seemed to me that they [the bandits] were fleeing Shahtarsk and needed a live shield [the children and elderly women].
They were taking elderly women to Donetsk, accompanying them on the bus. And it seemed that they were using it as a way to escape. I was captured, so I couldn’t pick up that elderly man yesterday. Gun pointed to my temple. I told them that I was scared. One of them fired a shot in the air and asked: “How about now, are you scared now?”
The scariest thing was when I arrived in the Pisky village. I had to drive though the fields, because roads are blocked with checkpoints everywhere now; they don’t let you through. I saw elderly women walking. I asked: “Will I get to Pesky this way?” They got in my car and showed me how to get around the mines. And then they said: “Stop here and continue on foot.” I went afoot. I saw mines and trip-wires everywhere.
I found an old woman, 96 years of age; the roof of her house was destroyed. She was sitting in the cellar, knee deep in water. She had been living in that cellar for four days. She was trying to get in touch with me for a week. We walked 3 km on foot toward my car. Missiles were scattered across the whole of Pisky, and there were flare pistols twisted into the ground.
The war is going on there.
Only now I know what the expression “people baptized by fire” really means.
They don’t care anymore. When I was taking people out of Snizhne, thirteen people managed to fit inside my car. I couldn’t even fathom it would be possible. There were only eleven of them to begin with, but they told me that there were two more people in Shahtarsk who needed to be picked up. I asked them: “How?”
As I approached Shahtarsk, two elderly men were waiting there. They said that they would be able to fit in. I told them: “Where?! You can’t! It’s impossible.” They started crying as I drove away. I came back for them and they got into the car! I don’t know how.
One of them had a passport with a Lviv registration. (Passports are being checked at every checkpoint.) We were doomed! Somehow he managed to lie down under the women’s legs, and they didn’t find him. I ended up bringing them to Sloviansk. I think that it wasn’t me but someone from above!
Earlier this week, I was transporting a young lady from the regional children’s hospital. She had just given birth to a baby. I was bringing them to Kramatorsk and all the roads were blocked. An old man who was passing by showed us the way and we drove through. Further on, there were mines. She was crying the whole way through, afraid that we would be blown up by a mine.
Somehow, through the fields, we had managed to drive out onto the Konstantynivska route. It took us two hours in order to get out of Donetsk and get onto this route. Yasynuvata (Donetsk Oblast) was blocked; you couldn’t drive through it. When we finally reached Kramatorsk, her dad started hugging me with tears in his eyes. I can’t even imagine, for what? I am only a connector between the steering wheel and the pedals.
There is some sort of Satanism happening here. It’s scary.
Although, what use am I to them? [Why would the DPR bandits want me?] My friend though, who went to pick up another old man, was captured in Shahtarsk and they are not letting him go. People have been searching for him for 36 hours now. He was captured in the same way I was. However, I was released and he wasn’t. I am looking for him. Everyone is looking for him and we have no idea where he is. Scary. I could have ended up in his place.
Where are you from? Aren’t you scared? Donetsk has stained all of Ukraine in blood. I am, for instance, ashamed that I come from Donetsk because hundreds of people are dying here. And it’s not even clear – what for? Young guys are dying. I have a satellite dish, and I am keeping an eye on information from both sides. I can see that Russia isn’t giving up. That’s scary.
Do you need shelter? Here they check the registration in your passport and take you away without any further questions. Aren’t you scared? Forgive me for being a resident of Donetsk.
Translated by Dasha Darchuk, edited by Mariana Budjeryn and Lisa Spencer