Natalia is a soft-spoken woman who carries herself with dignity that hides a painful past: just three years earlier her husband was murdered by separatists in Eastern Ukraine.
I travelled to Slavyansk, Ukraine, earlier this year and spoke to Natalia with the help of her two sons Ivan and Andre, who helped with translation to English, about her late husband and the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, whom she refers to as “terrorists.”
Her youngest son translated her words into English for our interview.
The family’s trial began on June 8, 2014. The family had attended church despite the terrifying shelling of the town. She said that all was going normally until ten men (she refers to them as “terrorists” or “separatists”) turned up and threatened everyone there. These separatists then abducted four men, including her husband.
Natalia and her two sons then spent 35 days desperately trying to find her husband and their father. She recalled appealing to a fellow Christian leader for help: an Orthodox priest. He initially offered to help but when he found out who they were, he dismissed them: “If you are Protestants you must be pro-USA and the USA is the enemy.”
When they finally connected with one of the abductors, he told them that they were “working on their captives, but when we’ve finished with them, they’ll be freed.”
However on the night of July 4, the separatists suddenly left town and the family intensified their search for their missing husband/father. Then on July 13 the truth emerged – the four abducted men had been murdered on the very day they were kidnapped.
After further intense searching, the bereaved families finally found the bodies of 14 people in a mass grave.
A year later Pastor Alexander P. (the father of two of the four abducted men) received a phone call from Moscow offering to sell them details about who had murdered the four men for a large sum of money. The pastor told the caller he only wanted to know why. The response was that “a religious organisation in Moscow ordered the deaths to destabilise the Protestants in Ukraine.”
What comfort and hope is there for these families in the darkness? They received some comfort from a witness who heard the four being tortured and testified that they had been very brave and had been singing and praying.
But the ultimate comfort in the excruciating pain and sadness is in the book that is the foundation of these families’ lives: the Bible.
Transcript of Interview with Pastor Alexander P.
Alexander P. is a pastor of a Pentecostal church in Slavyansk, Ukraine. Three years ago his two sons were murdered.
Interviewer: May I ask you a simple but very difficult question – in your sadness and suffering, do you believe any good can come from this terrible personal loss?
Alexander: That is a very difficult question indeed. It is very painful. I am a committed Christian. My grandfather was in the Russian army, under Tsar Nicholas but became a Christin through the testimony of a German army officer.
Under Stalin, he spent 18 years in prison for being a Christian. My father spent 10 years in prison for being a Christian. My mother spent 5 years in prison for being a Christian. All in the Stalinist era.
I know really what it means to be a Christian. I learnt that there is a price to pay for being a Christian. There is a price.
In the Soviet time, we were never treated as normal people. We were second class citizens. But God knows my heart; I am not a slave nor a soldier, just a trusting son of Jesus Christ.
But in everything that has happened now, will happen, we are trusting totally in Jesus. In my life, this is the greatest tragedy that has struck me. I am a blessed man. I have a wonderful beautiful wife. We have 7 sons and one daughter. I am blessed.
But this - this is painful (around 5 minutes 14 seconds, he holds back tears). The experience is so deep and painful. I simply trust that God is satisfied with me - that is all.
If I feel that God is content, then there is a sense of peace for me. It's a kind of compensation for me. And we have good people around us, who know my heart. I am a little man. God blesses us materially. That's also an interesting thought.
Interviewer: Another difficult question - do you believe your sons were murdered for being Christians?
Alexander: Definitely . 100% certainly.
A man who was present telephoned one of my sons two years ago - one year after the murders. We asked him a question. Why?
The man said, "We wanted to kill Protestants, to demotivate and destabilise the Protestant community." What helped us and encouraged us was that this man said that these four men were like real heroes, without fear. The four men sang and prayed. They were taken straight after the service on Sunday 2014, after we had all taken communion.
We're trusting for good to come of all this at some point. We miss them. We don't understand why, but the will of God is best, and I stand on that. It is hard. I cry. We cry. But God knows. We're not heroes. God knows.Take Action