23-year-old Artem Tchaikovsky, a children’s puppeteer and native of Donetsk, is undergoing treatment in Latvia. He qualifies for medical assistance as a victim from the conflict zone in Ukraine.
For the crime of singing patriotic songs in his own country and saluting his friend with the slogan “Glory to Ukraine”, militants kidnapped and tortured him – he was shot in both legs, slashed and burned.
Artem Tchaikovsky was born into a large family of five children. Before the war in Eastern Ukraine, almost all male members of the family were involved in “Ovation,” a mobile puppet theater much loved by Donetsk children.
Artem’s father Ihor Tchaikovsky, theater founder and writer, volunteered to serve in the Donbas military battalion. He became deputy commander of the platoon and appropriately went by the call name, “The Artist”.
“My father resisted for as long as possible, but when fighting began in Karlivka on May 23, and the first casualties occurred amongst the volunteers, my father said that he could not sit at home when 19-year olds were dying. Previously he had said this was “not their war; people who have experience and warfare skills have to fight,” said Artem about his father.
Torture for Ukrainian patriotism
Artem was captured and tortured not because his father was fighting as a volunteer in Ukraine, but because local residents, supporters of the terrorists, did not like the puppeteer’s patriotic spirit.
“I was walking with a friend, singing the Anthem of Ukraine, songs from Maidan. Near Lenin Square, I said to someone: “Glory to Ukraine.” He replied: “Glory to the Heroes.” [Some] 15-16-year old guys ran to us and started to tell us what we can say and what not. I replied that there is no question about Donetsk People’s Republic; Donbas is, was, and will be part of Ukraine. This is my home, I have the right to shout, I want to sing what I want. In the end, I live in a free country,” said Artem.
Shortly afterwards a GAZelle approached, and masked men with machine guns abducted the pair. They were taken to the Donetsk Regional Administration building and thrown into a basement.
“I wasn’t asked any questions there; they just tried to convince, rather, come up with [propaganda] stories. In half an hour they came up with three stories – first I was a “Right Sector” fighter, and on the square we were not two, but thirty people. The second story – I was a drug addict; then – a Banderist who eats children. They came up with these stories to justify their actions. Actions? They shot me; I still have real wounds. I do not know; probably a miracle saved me, but I was even burned.” Artem continued the story.
The torturers did not hide their faces
Psychological pressure, according to Artem, was applied by militants from the Caucasus, but the torturer was a Slav.
“He was a man of Slavic appearance. He is either a Russian, or Ukrainian; resident of Donetsk or not – I do not know. Where we were captured, he was wearing a mask, and then when torturing – without a mask, I knew him from his uniform,” said Artem.
The terrorists did not want to give up Tchaikovsky, arguing that he had only a few hours to live because he had lost a lot of blood. However, thanks to the care of people close to them, Artem and his friends were released. He underwent surgery, for which relatives had to collect 10,000 hryvnias (US$741) because the hospital in Donetsk refused treatment without payment.
Later, he was transported to the Mechnikov Hospital in Dnipropetrovsk. From there, Artem was transported to Latvia where he underwent two complex operations which he says saved his leg. This was made possible thanks to a program for medical treatment abroad for Ukrainian military victims of fighting in the area of the Anti Terrorist Operation.
Artem believes that residents who have remained in Donetsk either support the militias or are quite reckless. “One resident who left Donetsk earlier was very upfront in saying that they left Donetsk so as not to interfere with the Ukrainian troops destroying this evil from our land.”
Artem’s father Ihor Tchaikovsky survived the Battle of Ilovaisk and almost two weeks of captivity. He and his family moved to Dnipropetrovsk. Although he has to undergo further medical treatment, the Artist has revived the puppet theater and the first show has already been performed.
The family won’t be returning to Donetsk. They will start a new life in Dnipropetrovsk, which Artem now considers to be a very patriotic Ukrainian city. He is earnestly confident that very soon he will return to the stage, entertaining children.
Latvia is providing treatment for dozens of terrorists’ victims in Ukraine. Eight victims have already left for home. Funds for treatment and rehabilitation are provided out of the Latvian budget.
Recently the Latvian charity Ziedot.lv and the Foundation of Support for the Victims in the Conflict Zone in Ukraine have organized a joint project and are collecting donations for the treatment and rehabilitation of Ukrainian victims . The Ukrainian community in Latvia is also contributing.