One of those was Bryce Fredriksz. On the morning of July 17, 2014, the 23-year-old left his house on the outskirts of Rotterdam. He and his girlfriend, Daisy, were going to Indonesia. On board flight MH17.
“They went on holiday to Bali because Daisy’s mother just died three months before and of course Daisy was very, very sad and Bryce said I want to go on holiday with her,” Bryce’s mother, Silene Fredriksz said.
Four years later their room remains untouched, still in a mess from hasty packing. Scattered around the room are clothes that didn’t fit the suitcases, favorite toys that Bryce had kept since childhood, photos. Fredriksz found it beyond her strength to remove the things that were left after the death of her son and his spouse. She remembers her husband’s call.
“He shouted, you have to come home,” Fredriksz said, her voice quiet and tired. “The children have – the plane has crashed. As soon as I found out it was the plane they were in, I was certain their were no survivors. It was impossible. Impossible. I had no hope.”
Pro-Russian terrorists shot down the airliner in the Donetsk region, using a Russian Buk missile system. The debris from the plane scattered over tens of square kilometers. It was too dangerous to collect human remains under threat of attack in the occupied territories. And so, The searches were delayed. Then Robby Oehlers – Daisy’s cousin – went to the crash site himself.
“I called a television network for telephone numbers of people in the area. Their contacts. Like fixers. Journalists’ fixers… And they gave me three numbers. One was not good and the second one didn’t pick up and the third one was a hotel person. And the second one called back after a few minutes and identified herself as somebody from the DNR people and she said she can help me to Donetsk,” Oehlers said.
But Robby did not fly to Moscow. He reached the village of Hrabove in Donetsk region through the territory controlled by Ukraine. According to him, a quick glance at the wreckage confirmed – the air crash was not an accident.
“You see this grass, and you could see this grass was kind of swept away by the crash site and in the grass you could find human remains. Still, by the way. There’s still human remains lying there,” Oehlers said.
A year after the disaster, the bodies of Daisy and BryEce were cremated together. Here, in the suburbs of Amsterdam, the victims’ families created a memorial. They planted trees and sunflowers – since they grow at the crash site.. Almost three hundred victims are honored with their names engraved on a metal disk and tablets set on the trees.
The list includes the name of 17-year-old Elsemiek, the only daughter of Hans de Borst.
“She was with my ex-wife and her family. She went on holiday to Malaysia on July 17. And I gave her a hug and I said ‘Take care of yourself and have a nice holiday’ and she said ‘You don’t have to say that ten times,’ I said, ‘Ok, four times is enough, yeah, ok.”
Three weeks after the tragedy, the remains of Elsemiek were identified by a name ring. Hans wears it on his watch strap.
“I feel every day strange that she’s – that she won’t come back anymore. When she would leave for a month, or even a year, you can be easy about it, but now it’s not normal that you lose your child who is 17. That’s not – you can never get used to it,” de Borst said.
A bench is placed in memory of the victims of the air crash. It is located a few dozen meters from the Russian Embassy in The Hague. As a symbol of the expected punishment for the killers of three hundred people.
“The rest of the world may still remember that this is a mass murder anbd the country resposible for it just walks away. No we can’t let that happen. So I will fight for it – I’m glad that the governments from the investigation will fight for the truth – and if they don’t, but they do – we as relatives will also fight for it. For me it’s even more important that one day maybe Russia says – apologizes or takes responsibility,” de Borst said.
“The Russian military should not have been in Ukraine and the military equipment shouldn’t have been there either and that’s a decision made by high military people from Russia and of course the president knows because he’s responsible. So the man responsible for me is Mr. Putin. He created the situation that this would happen,” Fredriksz said.
In May, the Netherlands and Australia formally accused Russia of being behind the deadly attack on the Malaysian aircraft. The investigation proved that the Buk missile system, which was used to shoot down the aircraft, was brought to Ukraine from a military base near Kursk, Russia. Moscow continues to deny the charges and blocks the creation of an international tribunal in the case of MH17.