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Heartbreaking Profile of Young Man Killed during Odessa Massacre

17-year-old Vadim was the youngest victim of the Odessa Massacre at the House of Trade Unions. Here, a heartbroken mother tells about her son


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This article originally appeared at Red Star Over Donbas

The woe of the mother who lost her son is impossible to describe. Pain burns all within. Life has no meaning. Time stops. Because of human hatred, irrationality, fanaticism, 8 months ago Fatima Papura lost the most precious thing in her life -- her only son – 17-year-old Vadim. He was the youngest of those who died on May 2 at the House of Trade Unions, fallen from the window of a burning building. On the ground, he was finished off by Ukrainian nationalists. The heartbroken woman agreed to tell the Committee on May 2 about Vadim and that awful day when his life was tragically cut short.
Black Friday, or the day all was cut short
It was an ordinary Friday in May. In the morning nothing foretold trouble. The parents started spring cleaning. Vadim, as usual, helped them. Then he sat down to read.
"He was saying that, perhaps, he will be on duty in the camp on the Kulikovo Field,” recalls Fatima Papura. He said, "Maybe I will check in." When events began on Greek Street, he was at home. Together we watched the live broadcast on television. Then I could not imagine that there would be such horror. When I saw that on the Greek they began to shoot and dismantle cobblestones, I immediately realized these were not inhabitants of Odessa. Because no one from Odessa would treat their hometown so blasphemously.”
Fatima Papura vaguely remembers when Vadim left home -- he quickly packed up and left. Apparently, he still called and wrote on social networks. Vadim’s grandmother remembers the time of departure well. To her question, "Where are you going?", he replied, "I'm going to protect you." Vadim’s family did not see him alive again…
"He called at 6 o'clock from the House of Trade Unions. He said, "Mom, I'm on the Kulikovo Field, in the House of Trade Unions. But please do not try anything heroic, do not come here,” Fatima says bitterly. “It was the last call."
Seeing fire on the Kulikovo Field and, later, at the House of Trade Unions, the unhappy parents contacted the emergency line: "Look, the House of Trade Unions is on fire! There are people inside!” In response, they only heard the steely voice of the manager: “Yes, thank you.” Calls to the police were futile -- they just did not pick up.
"After that, my husband and I decided to go to Kulikovo Field. We went to rescue our son. For a long time we could not go -- there were no buses, vans or taxis. We waited for the tram. We arrived there at half-past seven. Firefighters had extinguished everything.
“I will never forget the horror that we saw on the Kulikovo Field. A frenzied crowd ... a real beast, even worse. After all, animals kill only when hungry.
“There were young girls. Although I cannot call them girls – 16-year-old youths. My head did not comprehend what they were shouting ... People were hiding on the roof, they flashed their flashlights, urging, ‘Come on, jump!’ ... We saw a man with a burnt face who rolled over the window sill and got stuck. They mocked him, shining flashlights on him ... There were real Nazis. Because they were going to kill their own citizens. They killed deliberately. And with a bestial grin, hatred ... Crazed eyes and facial expressions ...” explains Fatima Papura.
It seemed like a terrible dream. But Vadim’s parents had one goal -- to find and save their son. Fatima Papura tried to enter the House of Trade Unions, but the fascists would not allow it.
Hope flashed when police began pulling people out of the burnt building. For about three hours they searched among the detainees for their son ... but to no avail. Vadim was not there.
"We were incredibly thirsty and went to the station to buy water. When we returned, we saw that on the left side of the House of Trade Unions were the dead. They were cordoned off by the police. We passed by. My husband asked, ‘You haven’t seen Vadim?’ I said ‘No.’ And then ... we saw on one of the victims our son’s sweatpants ... and we realized ..."
There is a pause in our conversation. It’s impossible to understand how hard it is for this woman to scroll again and again through the events of that terrible day. It was difficult even for me, a journalist who has heard dozens of such stories -- my heart throbbed with pain and there were tears in my eyes.
‘The brakes were put on the investigation’
Identification, the funeral -- all passed in front of the unhappy woman as if in a fog. Now it is of the utmost importance that her son’s killers be found and punished under the law. But it is difficult to believe in a successful outcome of the investigation.
"Nobody says anything. I do not want to have to go to these investigators, begging them ... There are no real consequences. There are so many videos where you can see the person who kills. There is a specific video of a man who strangled a woman in the office, there is evidence of it. But he is free. The brakes were put on the investigation.”
According to Fatima Papura, during interrogation the investigator asked her just one question: "What was your son doing at Kulikovo Field?” “And what if he was -- who has the right to kill him? Who gave them the right to do that on Kulikovo Field?" the outraged woman responded.
"The investigator came two or three times. Then he stopped because the visits were not very pleasant. My father went to the investigator, trying to find out something. But no one said anything and they are not going to.
“Everyone understands why they put on the brakes. Because the Kulikovo activists are accused of separatism, terrorism, that they set fire to themselves. But this is nonsense. No, they were not separatists. There was not any talk of dividing Ukraine. They stood against fascism. Against what is happening in the state. Fascism walks the country -- openly and unpunished. It’s very scary that there were a lot of young people there who continue to roam the streets and feel their impunity. They will continue to kill people. They will not have any restrictions – whether it be a child, or a woman or a man. The government does not punish their crimes. And, unfortunately, the more time passes, the less likely it is that justice will prevail,” concludes Fatima Papura.
The extraordinary ordinary guy
Although Fatima Papura constantly said during the interview said that her son was "an ordinary guy," you realize that he, nevertheless, was different from many of his peers. Neat, responsible, kind, honest, gallant, courageous -- not every lad of 17 has such qualities.
"He had his principles and ideas and life goals. He liked to study at university -- he entered political science. Vadim was a versatile boy, he played chess well, and played perfectly on the piano.  He befriended the class teacher, and gladly went to school,” says Fatima.
Vadim loved building models. He collected model airplanes, and loved movies about World War II. He saw the film “Brest Fortress,” says the woman. “A heavy film. I could not watch it, but he watched from start to finish and even shed a few tears at the end -- this film reveals the heroism of the people, soldiers and officers. "
At 16, Vadim Papura joined the Komsomol. He found the local Komsomol, joined in 2012, and even attended the Komsomol Congress in Kiev.
"He made this decision,” says Vadim Papura’s mom. “We supported him because there is nothing wrong with the principles of the Komsomol. It really is the correct position, producing an upright man. Vadim absorbed all the correct and positive principles of this movement. After all, what can you learn from the Young Communist League? To be honest, treat people with kindness, have understanding, and achieve your goals. But the majority of today's young people have no boundaries and rules," says Fatima.
Classmates also speak about Vadim as a decent guy. An illustrative case was when one of his classmates swore at a girl, and Vadim made him apologize.
“He hated swearing, especially at girls,” said Fatima Papura. “When we went together with him in the shuttles, he always went out first to give a hand. We tried to instill in him gallant and helpful qualities. For example, when the school had some extra-curricular meetings, he did not leave all the heavy cleaning to the girls, but helped them."
How much good could Vadim have done in his life! But he did not have time …
Fatima and Vadim Papura
Life without a son
In Fatima Papura’s house, everything recalls Vadim – here’s a picture of him where he has done well, looking with good, clean eyes at his mother -- but at the bottom right, like a trail of the fire, is a black ribbon. Here is a stack of college notebooks in which Vadim, it seems like only yesterday, recorded university lectures. The chess board is in the closet, for his father now has no one to play chess with.
"They say that for many, my son has become a symbol of the struggle against fascism. And if it helps in the fight, I'll be happy. Because there aren’t many who can bring people together for a good cause, even after death.
“I really miss him,” she cries. “It is very hard without him. He’s the person for which we lived. In Vadim we saw the meaning of our existence, the result of our lives. I would not wish for anyone to go through even a small piece of the grief and despair that settled in my heart after May 2."
At the end of our conversation, Fatima recalls an incident that occurred before her son’s death. Vadim defended coursework in political science. The Komsomol was harangued because he did not respond to a piece of paper with the words “Hang the communists” written on it. Later, at Vadim’s funeral, the girl who wrote it repented, crying. But it was too late ...

Remember this, the next time you have a desire to shout insults at those whose opinion differs from yours.
Translated by Greg Butterfield


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