Paramedic Who Returned from Russian-Led Forces Сaptivity
Oleksandr Pavlov said that even when the militants put him into a prison truck he still did not believe that he would be returned home, not until he finally saw the Ukrainian flag
“Grapevine and roses that I planted… When I was there, I was worried about the garden and my dear dogs,” Oleksandr Pavlov said.
The front gardens are filled with rose blossom and the grapes are ripening in the yard. The plants are looked after by Pavlov. It became much harder for him to take care of his household. His health worsened drastically while he was held captive by pro-Russian militants. His back hurts constantly and he is in need of surgery to fix it. He spent two-and-a-half years in a cold cell, practically without food, but with regular beatings. Psychologically it was even harder.
“There was uncertainty. Where is my wife? What’s happening with my family? What’s happening in Mariupol? And so on. Only in October, I found out that my wife was at home and Mariupol was not occupied,” Pavlov said.
Pavlov was taken prisoner when he was bringing medicine for the injured. His acquaintance from the occupied Novoazovsk Hospital called him and offered help. The Red Cross sent humanitarian aid and was ready to share some of the medicine.
“I got into my car with my wife and went to pick up the medicine. But it turned out that I was detained by militant security forces inside the hospital together with my wife,” Pavlov said.
Pavlov’s wife was released after a day, but Pavlov was sent to the Donetsk pre-trial detention center. He said that up to 12 people were held in a room roughly 1 by 2 meters. They were barely fed.
“There were chairs like this, like in a kindergarten. You couldn’t move, there was no heating whatsoever. Every winter they would take off metal to put glass in the windows. They would just stick glass in the frame, cover the edges with cotton and the window was done,” Pavlov said.
Militants were promising to release Pavlov if he would sign confession papers on a fabricated accusation. He refused.
“I did not agree with the accusations. I was accused of storing grenades and spying for Ukraine. The punishment could have been 10 to 25 years or execution as a punishment in wartime,” Pavlov said.
Pavlov was released on December 27, 2017. Then, the largest exchange took place between Ukraine and the occupied territories of Donbas. He said that even when the militants put him into the prison truck he still did not believe that he would return home.
“I felt relief during the exchange only after I saw the Ukrainian flag as we were crossing the checkpoint in Horlivka,” Pavlov said.
For a long time, the man could not recover from post-traumatic stress disorder. But being home and having the care and attention of his loved ones certainly helped. Pavlov has two grandsons, they are 5 and 9 years old. The eldest boy is always by his grandfather’s side. They spend every weekend together.
“We go fishing, swim near the dam, and go for walks with the dogs,” the boy said.
Pavlov said that now he enjoys every day of freedom.