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One year ago I was kidnapped, tortured, and… let go!

Pastor Sergey Kosyak at an interfaith prayer marathon with his son, praying for the unity of Ukraine
Article by: Sergey Kosyak
Translated by: Helen Mironova Arends
Edited by: Lisa Spencer

May 24, 2015 One year ago, I was kidnapped and tortured… and let go.

Status Update, from Sergey Kosyak, in English

Exactly a year ago I was kidnapped, and then tortured by the militants from the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic. I haven’t said much about it before, but now, a year later, I decided to describe what had happened in a bit more detail, so that it might help some of my readers to understand the divisions happening in a society, and that all of us are accountable to the same God.

Interfaith Prayer Marathons in Donetsk

February 25, 2014 marked the beginning of the interdenominational prayer marathon in the city of Donyetsk. Every hour people from different Christian denominations came to pray in the center of Donyetsk to lift their city and its people in prayer. Later on, the yellow-blue prayer tent was raised up, complete with the slogan, “Praying for peace, love, unity and integrity of Ukraine.” Every day, 50 to 300 people would show up to pray for our country.

At that time, the separatist movement started gaining strength in our city. Just up from our tent, there appeared a separatist camp in the middle of Lenin Square. Anti-Ukrainian meetings and riots started taking place every weekend. Shortly after that, the separatists started taking over all the government and judicial buildings. By that time, all pro-Ukrainian sentiments have been squashed in the city, we were the only ones that were left standing.

Pastor Sergey and other faith leaders together leading the townspeople in prayers of unity

Our style was not very convenient for the separatists. On one hand, we never pretended to stand for anything else but the unity of our country, on the other hand, our meetings were actually prayer meetings. Prayer was offered up by Roman and Greek Catholics, Orthodox, protestant believers, and even Muslims, everyone dressed into their traditional religious garb.

Besides, at this time, the militants had a lot of locals in their midst, who knew us, and we knew them, personally. I visited the regional government office on many occasions. The governor of the office was my acquaintance and used to attend our church. I came there to exhort him, and also to find out the militants’ future plans, in regards to our prayer marathon.

Militants destroying Prayer Tent

pastor sergey6 pastor sergey7

On May 24th, 2014, our prayer tent was visited by the militants, aiming their weapons at the believers gathered together there to pray for our city; they broke down our tent, throwing its remains into the Kalmius River. Having finished their “job,” they left, threatening to shoot everyone who dared to show up again to pray. As soon as I heard of what had happened, I arrived at the scene. Shortly after, I went to the regional headquarters to speak with my acquaintance and find out more information to figure out what to do next.

Arriving at the regional government office, I didn’t find my usual acquaintance, but did find my friend, whom I love to this day. Having seen him, I was genuinely excited, started asking him about how his life was going, yet soon I noticed he was not that happy to see me. He raised his voice at me, calling me a jerk, constantly looking at the TV screen, installed in every office in the building at the time, continually broadcasting the Russia 24 channel.

Next, armed men arrived, escorted me to the 11th floor, where my first questioning took place. A militant, looking and sounding like a native of Caucasus, hit me with a butt of his rifle, asking me where I was from. Then my friend was brought in; he started witnessing against me. He said that I gathered people together under the pretense of a prayer meeting, and then pursued the “anti-people” ideas and so on, and so forth.

After that I was beaten from all sides. I remember blood running all over my face; I remember the blood drops falling from my broken lips onto the marble tiles of the hallway.

Then I was taken to the lower floor. I saw the sign, Donetsk People’s Republic NKVD (People’s Commissary of Internal Affairs), and that’s where the REAL questioning took place. My pockets were emptied. Money, bank card, car keys, all were taken away. I was beaten by at least five people. They used their fists, feet, clubs.

They browsed my social network pages and as soon as they found things they didn’t like, they beat me. They looked up my profile in Odnoklassniki social network, and finding my picture taken in Lviv, across the street from the Stepan Bandera monument, they beat me. That one picture was enough for them to see me as a criminal.

Then they called my friend again and started asking him about who I really was. He replied that I was a pastor from a church, but yet again, he made a point to mention that I had gathered people to riot against the separatists and that I belong to Lyashko’s circle of friends. In short, he spoke complete nonsense, yet in his mind it sounded like truth. My face was covered in blood. Scowling through the pouring blood, I asked my friend when he had ceased to be a human.

At this time, they undressed me to check for tattoos, then, barely dressed, I was taken to a room with a mattress thrown into a corner. I was told it was to be my temporary home. I was then promised that after the torture, they were going to kill me. They tied yellow and blue ribbons around my neck and wrists, saying that eventually they will hang me using one of them.

Periodically, different people entered the room, taking their turns beating me, one at a time, and then all together. They used rods for the pressure points, and a whip to slash my flesh, but not to do serious damage to my internal organs. That’s when it occurred to me that they weren’t really going to kill me. Between the beatings, I was accused of sectarianism and was asked how many people from the Right Sector I had brought with me.

pastor sergey8 Pastor Sergey after being tortured

I remember seeing an attractive young woman of about 25 years of age enter the room; she asked the permission of my tormentors if she could please try her hand at beating me. Hearing the approval and cheering of the crowd, she hit me a few times with a rod, for her own amusement.

When they beat me, I prayed. When they stopped, I told those around me about God. The news about an unusual prisoner spread throughout the cellars of the NKVD. A bit later, a guy, nicknamed “Kolobok”, came to see me and told me that he had attended the “Philadelphia” church in Kiev and was also a believer. He left after a short conversation with me.

Another man arrived shortly, turned out to be their commanding officer, and started yelling at them. Cussing them out, he commanded them to return my money, car keys, and cash cards, forcing them to apologize to me. I definitely did not expect this outcome.

Pastor Sergey after being held and "questioned" for praying for his country
Pastor Sergey after being held and “questioned” for praying for his country

While everyone was confused and trying to figure out what had just taken place, this commanding officer approached me and told me that he had fallen away from God, attended a rehab center “New Generation,” led by Pastor Tishenko in Pershetravnevske, and hoped that by saving me, his life would be redeemed in God’s eyes and he would earn His mercy.

Every single one of my tormentors sought my forgiveness, with the exception of the man from the Caucasus, who seemed to hate everyone there.

After eight hours of torture, I was taken to a hospital, where everything torn was sewed back together and I was treated for all other injuries.

This was how God showed His power. We continue to do good together.

Editor’s Notes: Under threat of death, Pastor Sergey Kosyak left his home and is now a refugee, serving refugees.  His family is safe elsewhere while he continues to reach out to his countrymen in Ukraine.  If you would like to help him feed and clothe refugees, please share. You can follow his ministry and continued prayer marathon on his Facebook page.

Support: You can support Pastor Sergey Kosyak’s efforts to help refugees, through Mission Eurasia‘s (formerly Russian Ministries‘) “I Care Refugee Assistance Program.” 

Translated by: Helen Mironova Arends
Edited by: Lisa Spencer
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