Missing: Galyna and Anatoliy Obruch
Galyna Obruch, 65, and Anatoliy Obruch, 67, retired volunteers, went missing after they traveled on Nov. 12, 2014, from their home in the city of Slavutych in northern Ukraine to eastern Ukraine, with clothes and medication for Ukrainian soldiers. They were reportedly arrested by Russian-backed fighters in the city of Donetsk, but the occupying authorities in control of the city have not confirmed this.
Their story was told by their grandson, Vyacheslav Kryvopalenko, 27, in Kyiv. He has been looking for them since they disappeared. The following are his words, recorded and translated by the Kyiv Post.
My grandparents were much involved in the EuroMaidan protests — they came there from Slavutych every week. My grandma worked in a kitchen, and my grandpa helped as a Maidan guard.
They worried a lot about the annexation of Crimea. My grandma is Russian by nationality, and she started arguing with her sister Nadya because of all that.
When the war in Donbas started my grandparents vowed to help our soldiers.
They loaded their KIA Cerato car with medicines, warm clothes, blankets, biscuits, pasta and also some homemade canned vegetables and set out on a journey. It was Nov. 10, 2014, when I saw them in Slavutych for the last time.
They told me they would take their stuff to Mariupol, the city where they met each other, and hand it over to local volunteers. I didn’t know then that they had rather different plans.
My grandma called me on Nov. 12, 2014, at about 2 p.m. She told me they were at a Ukrainian checkpoint, that all was fine but she couldn’t talk for long and promised to call me back in the evening.
I called them both at 5 p.m., then at 6 p.m. but without any response. Then me, my aunt and my sister were calling them for the next three days, every 20 minutes. Then we reported them as missing to the police and the SBU security service.
It was only in June 2015, when the police gave us a printout of their phone conversations, (that I found out) that my grandma had actually called me on Nov. 12 from the city of Donetsk, on Hurova Ave. They arrived there in the morning, the mobile signal records showed.
Apart from calls to family members, they called two unknown phone numbers. I called them and found out the real story.
My grandparents had decided to help some soldiers from Slavutych that were fighting in Pisky, near Donetsk airport.
They contacted a man in Donetsk called Serhiy and asked him to guide them to Pisky. When they met up, Serhiy told them it was too dangerous and tried to guide them out of the (Russian-occupied) city. And on the way out, on Hurova Ave., he told me they were arrested by the Oplot battalion.
They saw a license plate of a car issued in Kyiv, and my grandparents also had a Ukrainian flag in their car. Serhiy said they were accused of being the spotters for Ukrainian army. My grandma tried to calm them down, telling them she was ethnic Russian herself.
The fighters took Serhiy to jail and handed over my grandparents to the MGB (the Russian occupation authorities’ security service.) Serhiy told me he spent one month in prison before being released. He didn’t know what had happened to my grandparents.
I called him back in a year, early in 2016. I tried to make him understand our grief. In May 2016, during our last conversation he told me: “You don’t need to look for them. They are no longer alive.” He didn’t explain to me what happened.
There were four changes in the police detectives in charge of this case over the years. I wanted to complain about the police and prosecution, but they even didn’t show me the criminal case regarding the search for my grandparents.
Instead, there were more than 20 cases of fraudsters demanding money from me for information about my grandparents. I gave information about those fraudsters to the police and SBU. But the police found nothing.
In the winter of 2015, I filed a lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights, complaining that Ukraine’s law enforcement bodies weren’t searching for them.
My grandparents went to Slavutych after the Chornobyl catastrophe and worked at the nuclear power plant. Just like my grandfather, I’m an atomic electric engineer.
I want to have some clarity on what happened to them. If they’re alive, then I want to be able to get them back. If not, then I want at least there to be a grave to visit.
This uncertainty is painful. I even try not to go to Slavutych, because I may accidentally pass by their windows and start remembering them.