[yalensis note: I made a significant update to this blogpost on March 3, 2016.
Namely, I replaced the poor machine-translation of the Vdovichenko “Banderite” confession with a much better English translation which I found on the internet – see link below. I still have not found the original Russian source for this confession. It is in the archives somewhere.]
So, yesterday I took you through the Feldman video, which is the main factual “evidence” that Galina Pyshnyak’s alleged atrocity did NOT actually occur. Due to “negative proof”, i.e., lack of corroboration. In his 15-minute stroll through the Town Square of Slavyansk, Ukraine, Feldman could not find a single eye witness who would step forward and declare, right into the camera: “Yes, the Ukrainian army murdered a mother and a child right over there, at that spot. I saw it with my own eyes!”
And to this day, nobody has stepped foward, nobody, not even other refugees, has posted any material evidence or claimed to have witnessed this alleged crime. It is just the word of one woman, and nobody has heard much from her recently, as far as I know. The more time that goes by without side corroboration, the more likely it is, I suppose, that this one woman just made the story up. For whatever reason. Possibly as a propaganda sally. Galina Pyshnyak has slipped below the radar, my guess is that she and her children were quietly settled somewhere in Russia, possibly given new identities. I don’t know. I haven’t heard or read anything recently.
Does Galina Deserve an Oscar?
Fact remains, that the anti-Galina crowd still have to explain why Galina said what she said. There were those on the blogosphere who didn’t believe her but wanted to be sympathetic. They claimed that she was “traumatized” and that, in the fog of her trauma, was simply imagining things that didn’t happen. They portray her as the classic literary “madwoman”, possibly Mr. Rochester’s first wife, who has simply lost her mind from grief and fear.
I personally don’t buy this. Watching Galina’s interviews, I see a woman who is calm and steely; who, in her own words, has “turned to stone”. A woman with a sharp and rational mind, and a keen sense of observation. To me, it is pure binary logic: Galina is either telling the literal truth; or she is deliberately telling a big lie. Either way, underneath the calm exterior, there is a real person. She sheds a tear when recounting the horror of the mother who watched her own child being tortured to death.
Which “performance” led some other people to claim that Galina is a “professional actress”, hired by the FSB to make propaganda videos. For example, in January 2015, half a year after the story broke, some Ukrainian bloggers posted “proof” of this: Pro-Ukrainians claimed to have spotted Galina in the role of “innocent victim” in various FSB-inspired propaganda reels. For example, portraying a “shop clerk” in Donetsk, who was interviewed as an eye witness after the Ukrainian army shelled some buildings nearby.
While the girl in question does bear a slight resemblance to Galina (due to a “Slavic cheekbone” type commonality, shared, among others, by English-Ukrainian actress Tatiana Maslany), this friendly and appealing shop girl is not actually Galina. Blogger Anatoly Shariy easily debunked this claim. Great journalist that he is, Shariy WENT TO DONETSK and interviewed the woman. Who clearly is not Galina Pyshnyak. In his resulting video, Shariy addresses the Ukrainian media, which continues to put out lie after lie concerning this civil conflict: “Will you apologize for these lies?” he asks rhetorically.
And Shariy, by the way, was among those journalists who did NOT buy Galina’s story about the “crucified child”. Right after it came out, Shariy put out this analysis of the story. Please watch Shariy’s video “debunking” Galina, there are English subtitles. Shariy’s main debating point is that “similar atrocity stories” (of children being nailed to poster boards or various other objects) were all over the internet. In the context of the Ukrainian civil war. Shariy argues that this meme of tortured children has become sort of an “urban legend” in some circles.
Much as I respect Shariy, I do not really buy his logic in this case. For example, people talk a lot about “heads being chopped off”, that’s an internet meme as well, and has even spawned fake videos, and yet it does appear that groups like ISIS in the Middle East chop heads off. Almost as a grisly art form. Just because something becomes a meme or a stereotype, does not make it automatically a fake. Plus, what is to stop criminals from imitating acts that they may have seen in movies, or heard about in that incessant rumor mill that is the collective human subconscious?
Although skepticism to such narratives is surely warranted, I do agree.
Shariy’s other debating point is: How could Galina know that the allegedly crucified child was 3 years old? If she knew who the child was, then why didn’t she give his name?
Two possible responses to this argument:
- She was just guessing at the baby’s age; or
- She knew the family personally but withheld the name, possibly to protect members of this family, from reprisals or emotional shock
Later Shariy penned a slightly different challenge to Galina’s story, here is that link along with my translation:
The TV Channel Dozhds and other Navalnyite media have put forward the proposition that the lady who recounted the “crucifixion” of a child, is an actress.
This is nonsense. She is not an actress, she does actually have several children, her husband Konstantin is in reality in the [Separatist] militia. She (Galina) lives in Nikolaevka, and spent most of her time in Slavyansk.
As concerns her origins in Western Ukraine – there are indeed some questions. Obukhov is not really Western Ukraine, it’s near Kiev.
Galina Pyshnyak-Okhrimenko-Astapenko is a real person. But the story recounted by her — is bullshit.
To all those saying they “don’t know” what is the truth — I propose to them one single question: Name the Date and the Time when the boy supposedly died out there on the square for one and half hours.
One question. Just one question….
And again, I don’t know exactly what Shariy is getting at. The answer to his question, according to Galina’s story would be: Sometime between 2:00 PM and 4:00 PM (local time) on July 5, 2014. IF Galina was telling the truth. Is that an impossible time for a public execution? What am I missing here… (?)
Guilt By Association?
And I end my blogpost with a maybe unfair appeal to the “Guilt by association” logic. If I were a professional Prosecutor accusing Colonel Heletei of this alleged atrocity…
Well, for starters, I would have a flimsy case, with Galina Pyshnyak as my only witness.
Nonethess, when time came for “closing arguments”, I would narrate some historical background to the jurors. I would tell them about Stepan Bandera and his known and proven crimes against civilians. Granted, all that happened many decades ago. But I would point out that the current Ukrainian government regards Stepan Bandera (and his political party UPA) as a hero and as the founder of the Ukrainian statehood. And that the Ukrainian army and National Guard militias have been taught to “walk in the footsteps” of Stepan Bandera. And then I would show them this document, namely the confession of a woman named Vdovichenko, which shows exactly what kind of people we are dealing with here, when we are talking about Banderites.
The Deathbed Confession of an Old Banderite Woman [translation into English, but the original Russian is out there on the internet somewhere], she is speaking of things that happened in her youth, namely the Volhynia Massacres of 1943:
“I, the undersigned, Nadezhda Timofeevna Vdovichenko, native of Volhynia… I beg you to grant me and my family forgiveness posthumously, because as you read this I will be no more (I trust my best friend with the mission to deliver my testimony).
We were five siblings in the family—all of us ardent Banderites: my brother Stepan, myself, my sisters Anna, Olya and Nina. We all joined Bandera. In the daytime we rested in our huts; during the night we would drive or walk to neighbouring villages. We were given an assignment to strangle anyone who was harbouring runaway captured Russians, as well as those Russians. But it was a man’s task. We girls just sorted the clothes and household goods, took care of the livestock of those killed—slaughtered the animals, skinned and butchered them, cooked, salted, packed them… Once during a single night in the village of Romanovo, they strangled eighty-four human beings. Well, they strangled the adults and elderly, but children—we would simply pick them up by their legs, swing them against the wall—and finished, time to go. We felt very sorry for our men—they were so overworked with such a hard task, the daytime was barely enough for them to regain their strength and resume the killings the next night. There were those who tried to hide. If we did not find any men we would start with the women.
In the village of Verkhovka, the wife of Tilimon Kovalchuk refused to tell us where he was hiding. She did not even want to open the door to us but we threatened her and she had to let us in. We told her: “We just need to chat with your husband, we are not going to harm you.” She said that he was hiding in a haystack. We dragged him out and beat him up until he expired. They had two children, very nice kids—Stepan and Olya were their names, twelve and fourteen years old…. The young girl, we just tore her in half. It spared us the effort of killing her mother—she died of a heart attack on the spot. We took strong healthy guys in our ranks—strangling is no easy task. Two brothers Levchuki from the village of Verkhovka, Nicolay and Stepan, refused to strangle people, ran away and returned home. We condemned them to capital punishment. When we came to their house to pick them up for execution, their father said, “If you are taking my sons, take me too.” Kalyna, his wife, stepped forward and said, “If you are taking my husband, take me too.” We took an entire family; led them away. On the way Nicolay’s sister, Nadya, pleaded with us to let him go. Nicolay answered her, “Don’t plead, Nadya, don’t humiliate yourself, Bandera never showed mercy to anyone.” We killed Nicolay, his father, mother, Nadya. We kept Stepan alive, and took him along; he was imprisoned for two weeks—it was winter time—in an unheated barn, with no clothes other than underwear, severely beaten daily with iron ramrods; we wanted him to tell us where the other members of the family were hiding. But he was strong-willed, he did not betray them. The last evening, after we beat him yet again, he asked to go to the outhouse. The guard took him, but there was a huge blizzard; the outhouse was made from straw, Stepan broke through the straw and escaped from our clutches. All the information was given to us by Verkhovka locals: Petro Rimarchuk, Zhabsky, Puch.
…We were informed that in the village of Novoselki, Rivne oblast, there was a girl who had joined the Komsomol. Motrya was her name. We took her to Verkhovka. The old man Zhabsky pulled the heart out of the still living girl, with a stopwatch in his other hand—to measure how long the heart would keep beating in his hand. Later, after the Russians had come, his sons wanted to set up a monument to him, saying he had fought for Ukraine.
There was a Jewish girl, with a little child—she had run away from the ghetto. We ambushed her in the forest, butchered her and buried her right there… One of our Banderite guys befriended some Polish girls. When the news got out, he was ordered to kill them. He obeyed the order by drowning them in a stream. Their mother came, crying, asking if anybody had seen her girls who had gone missing. I told her, “No, not really. But let’s go look for them together.” I took her to the same place where her daughters had been drowned and pushed her into the stream as well. We were given orders to kill all Jews, all Poles, all Russians, any runaway prisoners of war and those who aided them. Kill them all—without mercy. We went after the Severin family, strangled them all. But their daughter was away—married, she was living in another village. She soon returned and, wailing over her dead parents, she proceeded to unearth the valuables her family had hidden underground. The Banderites came, took away the unearthed goods, put her in the same box she had just dug out and buried her alive in it. She left two small children at home. If she would have taken them along, the children would have ended up in the same box. There was someone in our village named Kublyuk. He was sent [by the Soviet authorities -ed.] to the town of Kotov, in Kivertsy district, to work. He had not completed his first week in the new job when his head was chopped off. The guy next door, Vasily, very much in love with Koublyuk’s daughter Sonya, protected her. He was given the order from the Banderites to kill her, or else… Vasily said to Sonya, “I am going to the forest to chop some wood. Come with me.” She did. He brought her back dead. His explanation was that she was killed by a falling tree.
There was a very ancient man in our village, named Timofey Oytsyus. People honoured him as God’s prophet, for he was never wrong in his predictions. When the Germans arrived, the fame of this clairvoyant reached even them. They would visit him respectfully, asking him to prophesy about their future. He replied, “I don’t dare to find out because what if it is bad—are you going to kill me?” Via the translator, the Germans promised that no harm would be done to him whatever he might say. Then the old man meditated and told them, “You will reach Moscow very quickly, but you will run from Moscow even quicker.” The Germans kept their world and let him be. But when the old man told the Banderites that their slaughter of innocent Ukrainians would not bring them victory they savagely beat him until he passed away.
Now I want to talk about my family. My brother Stepan was an ardent follower of Bandera, but I did not lag behind and fought for the Banderites even though I was married. When the Russians came, they started arresting people, sending them into exile. Our family was proscribed too. My sister Olya made a deal with the Soviets before the departure, agreeing to cooperate with them. The Soviets let her go but the same night the Banderites came and strangled her. My father, mother and sister, Nina, ended up in Russia. My parents were already old and weak, my sister, Nina, the only able-bodied member of the family, flatly refused to work “for Russians”. They even offered her a good clean secretarial job but she said that she would never hold anything Soviet—even a pen—in her hand. They were still trying to make her relent, saying “Okay, you don’t want to work—fine. We can let you go back home—but only if you agree to cooperate with us and bring the murderers to justice.” She signed the deal, without even thinking very hard (and without intending to abide by it). The moment she set foot back in her village, the Banderites were waiting for her. They called a secret meeting and at that meeting they condemned her to die, “to show everyone what awaits the traitors.” Until this day I do not know what they did to her.
All my life I have carried a heavy burden in my heart—I trusted Bandera, I could have killed anybody who said one wrong word about the Banderites. Cursed people, may they be damned by God and by humankind for eternity! How many innocent lives did they destroy? And now they demand to be called “the defenders of Ukraine”? From whom they were “defending” Ukraine? From their own kin? Soulless bastards! How much blood is on their hands, how many did they bury alive? Even those who were back then sent into exile—they do not want to return to this accursed land of Bandera.
I implore you, people, forgive my sins.”
Original Source: newspaper “Sovetskaya Luhansk”, January 2004, N 1
My only conclusion is what I said before: Galina Pyshnyak either witnessed an actual atrocity in Slavyansk; or she deliberately lied about it. Presumably, to score propaganda points against the Ukrainian government. Again, my only point is, please, pause and think the next time you say, or hear somebody utter the internet meme “crucified child” with a knowing smirk. And remember the people who used to laugh about the patently “ridiculous” story about “the baby who got eaten by a dingo”. In that particular case, the baby was real, and the dingo was also real.