Aleskey Shurepov – Portal
Aleskey Shurepov was imprisoned in one of the torture chambers. “Thank heavens it went well for me,” he says. It was a basement where “you could be in hell,” she confides. It happened to him in the city where he lived: Skadovsk. It is still in the hands of the Russian military as of early March. A port overlooking the Black Sea in south-eastern Ukraine, a pre-war resort town of 17,000, lies in the part of the Kherson region occupied by Moscow’s soldiers.
In November, Aleskey managed to escape from the “Russian hostage area,” as he calls it. He fled to Kyiv with his wife, children and mother-in-law, where he volunteered for Caritas-Spes. And it accompanies humanitarian aid convoys that commute between the capital and Kherson. «I know the capital like the back of my hand. Two of my three children were born here,” he emphasizes as he unloads pallets of groceries for those left behind in the ghost town. He is a gentle giant Aleskey. It is no coincidence that about ten years ago he opened a rehabilitation center for children in Skadovsk, relying on dolphin therapy. “You know, the city was historically considered a “sanatorium” for children: the sea and the climate are our strengths – he explains -. I had three dolphins. And the little ones played with them in the pool where they did their exercises». Immediately closed with the arrival of the enemy who landed from Crimea. “There were months when we couldn’t even leave the house.
They only allowed me to feed the dolphins.’ But maybe that’s precisely why he ended up on the Russian security services’ blacklist because he was a well-known face in the local community. “In the first few weeks of the cast, someone must have mentioned my name,” he surmises. “Several times the Russian military raided my neighborhood. They wanted to know everything: whether I speak Russian or Ukrainian; what I thought of her presence; how people felt.”
Then one day they took him away. « And I found myself in one of those rooms that have only one purpose: to extract a confession from you. Especially what you’ve never done before. And he says: «The Russians had created them in two different places in the city: on the «Jugendcampus», where their headquarters were located; and at the prosecutor’s office. The rooms chosen were underground so no one could hear anything.” Barely isolated within the four walls of the nightmare, the inmates possessed his cell phone. ‘You’ve read all the names in the directory. They wanted information on everyone, especially political ideas.” A pause. The thought that returns there, to that room full of fear, from violent orders to threats against the family. Endless hours of psychological torture. “I got out alive. I have friends who were taken there and no one knows what happened to them». Maybe killed. Maybe deported to Russia.
“And I can say that many have been isolated for five or six days without eating or drinking. If they ask you about torture like that, you can admit anything.” Days in a still-captive country are marked by terror, says Aleskey. “Everything is kept under control. You feel oppressed could only stay with a Russian passport.Then they banned us from going to the beach because they turned the coast into a site for military exercises.They imposed the ruble as the only currency through shameful speculation on the exchange rate: “One ruble equals one hryvnia,” they noted, even though our currency is worth almost twice as much.
In May they blocked Ukrainian phone companies and the Internet with foreign operators: in fact, you could only navigate through Russia and therefore everything was traced. In June, they forced companies to keep records only in Russian and pay employees only in rubles, under threat of state requisitions. And before Kherson was liberated in November and the Russian army retreated, they brought the city’s collaborators over to us by confiscating people’s homes.’ And it’s an open wound for those who sided with the occupying forces. “Some did it because they miss the USSR. Others because they have problems with the law and hope for an amnesty».
And Aleskey confirms that Russia’s referendum on annexation in late September was a sham. “Nobody wanted to vote. “Extras” were brought in from Crimea to show the queues in front of the polling stations. And every ballot was checked before it was placed in the ballot box.” Will he return to Skadovsk? “Right now I’m going to the United States with my family. For two years, the American authorities have been granting quick and easy entry visas to those leaving Ukraine. I will live in Philadelphia. It’s too early to tell if my life will be here or on another continent.”