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We are going to visit Ihor Yakovenko. This man has a very hard life. He was released from captivity just at the end of the last year. He is 30 years old. He does not have parents. He has no relatives or acquaintances in Kyiv. His 4-year-old son Demian has remained on the uncontrollable territory.
Where were you at the time when hostilities began?
Yakovenko: In 2014, I was in Debaltseve. Then I had to survive somehow.
When did you realize that this is a real war?
Well, when the bombing began, I was thinking of leaving. I have an uncle in Mykolaiv; I wanted to take my family there. There were some suggestions, but for some reasons, my wife refused to move.
Did you realize that this territory should be left as it became dangerous for life?
Yes, there was some tensed situation. People have become different, I would say, eviler. There was a referendum, on the 23rd of...
Did you take part in it?
No, I did not take part in it. The reason is that I support Ukraine. I was born in Ukraine.
Your son is 4 years old. Do you know where he is now?
Yes. He lives with my civil wife, with mother, everything is OK with them. They live in Debaltseve.
Do you understand that you would not meet your own son, your wife and her relatives soon?
I understand that I cannot meet them soon, but I will make efforts to take them out of this territory and start a new life.
How did you appear in Horlivka, where, in fact, you were detained by the militants?
It happened on August 9, 2015. The brother of my wife came to me with binoculars and said: "Let us see where it falls and what is actually falling. Maybe, we should take the children and hide in the basement." We had to pass some 30 meters, and we did it. I tried to persuade him: "Come on, buddy, let us stay. Look, you have a family, and I have a family. I have just moved in. Let us stop it to avoid these excesses." Accordingly, I did not manage to persuade him, he replied: "I will go alone." I did not let him go, because I take care of my own, whoever he is. So we walked some 20-30 meters from the house, nothing of ill omen was apparent. It took literally 2-3 minutes. I looked through the binoculars, we looked through the binoculars, we did not see anything. We were leaving the place, while a car drove up. We were mistaken for fire controllers, spies, and so on.
Where did he take the binoculars?
He told me that it was his father's binoculars, old model, 25-fold. Perhaps his father was a sailor.
As far as I understand, after a while, your relative was released after the detention. Is my information right?
And why did it happen, why did they let him go?
Well, I think could say something about me, something that did not really happen.
Interrogations are a very difficult thing, and as far as I understand, they have used all the methods, even tortures. Can you say something about this?
Well, tortures ... yes, of course, they used electric shock tortures, and they pressed us psychologically. There was pressure. They said that they would shoot my arms, legs, etc. They said they would l take me to a minefield, and it depends on me, whether I survive. They said I had a choice: either I tell them at least something, or they will cut my throat. It was a real sink or swim moment. My mind was shattered. They asked me: "Well, do you have to say us something?" I said "No". "Then," they replied, "keep this guy (they took a knife), now there will be a lot of blood, try not to splash it." Hysteria has gripped the Buryat. He said: "Say goodbye to life." I began to yell: "OK, OK, I will tell you something." I took it upon myself.
In one of your interviews, I read that your stutter appeared after you were interrogated with a current.
Do you have a desire for revenge?
I strongly recommend those who tortured me not to meet me again.
Do you want to go back to the Donetsk region?
I want to go back to the Donetsk region, but until we take those lands... I was thinking of serving in the army, but now I have one dilemma – my family.
When you arrived at the "Boryspil" airport, you were met by journalists, volunteers, and other active people. I looked through those pictures and saw that you were standing alone all the time. Everyone was met by his relatives or something like that, and you were left without much attention.
I was alone, nobody knew me there, no one has met me. I was happy to see the guys, and that their relatives came to meet them. Well, at that moment I simply felt freedom. I just wanted ... I was full of emotions. I still could not understand where was I.