Oksana Makar Dies; Ukraine Tries to Make Sense of a Senseless Situation

[Trigger warning for discussion of rape and violence.] This morning, at 7:30 a.m. Donetsk time, Oksana Makar passed away. Her lungs began to bleed and then she went into cardiac arrest. The doctors attempted to resuscitate her for an hour, to no avail.

Oksana's mother
Makar's mother, Tatyana Surovitskaya, holds up a photograph of her daughter. Picture from Donbass.ua.

The doctors said from the beginning that her chances were slim, that the fact that she had lived through what she lived through was, in and of itself, a miracle.

The burn center director, Emil Fistal, said “Ð’Ñ‹ же понимаете, 10 часов провести на морозе! Она дышала продуктами горения, страдали легкие, тлели эти тряпки, конечно и переохлаждение сыграло свою роль.”

“Can you imagine, 10 hours in the frost! She was breathing in products of combustion, and her lungs suffered, her clothes were smoldering, and of course hypothermia played a role.”

In case you haven’t heard about this story, the 18-year-old was gang-raped, strangled, and left for dead in a construction pit, where she burned alive all night long, simultaneously smoldering and getting hypothermia, until a passer-by found her in the morning. She had burns over 55% of her body, several of her organs failed, her feet and one arm were amputated. The three men being held for the crime were initially released, perhaps because of relatives in high places. Protests were held for Makar, and when the pressure was on, the men were picked back up. But she lived.

This happened three weeks ago. She was initially unable to be transported, but was airlifted to Donetsk, where hope for her recovery grew. She lived through so much. And now she is dead. She was her mother’s only child.

At some point in the next week, I will write about the silver linings of this case, and there are some: corruption is a huge problem in Ukraine, and with this case being so high-profile, this could be a big step in the right direction. Corruption won’t be eliminated, but certainly people will think more carefully about what laws they choose to break for whom. Rape is being openly discussed, and people are standing up for women’s rights. Communities are coming together to try to instigate change.

But for now, although I know that the silver linings exist, I can’t yet delve into them. It remains to be seen what kind of impacts will be had, but beyond that, my heart hurts. It hurts for the woman who endured so much torture, and it hurts for a mother that lost her only child, and it hurts for people who get swept up into horrible situations without thinking, and it hurts for people who, instead of understanding humanity, are willing to point fingers at a victim. It hurts that we live in the kind of world that we live in, and it hurts that this kind of thing can happen in a country that I love so much.

Oksana’s funeral will be held on Saturday morning in Mykolayiv. Makar’s mother has invited anybody who wants to say goodbye.

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Susan

I am old and wise. Perhaps more old than wise, but once you're old, you don't give a shit about details anymore.

28 thoughts on “Oksana Makar Dies; Ukraine Tries to Make Sense of a Senseless Situation”

    1. La Strada Ukraine does great work in trafficking:  http://www.brama.com/lastrada/

      I can look for others if you are interested – I know that this isn’t exactly trafficking, but trafficking is a huge women’s issue at this point in Ukraine.

      For more of a general women’s group, I would look here:  http://www.osce.org/ukraine/43371

      I have heard great things about La Strada from people who know.  I can ask around if you want – I am not an expert at this, nor am I on the ground in Ukraine, but I know people who would be able to give more info.  Just reply here if you want me to start looking.

  1. Thank you. For reporting on this and keeping up with it.

    I… couldn’t respond to earlier postings a mixture of shock/disgust/feeling hopeless at the entire situation.

    Thank you for this and telling Oksana’s story and for the work that you do.

  2. I read the huffpo article today and waited for this post.  I can’t believe that they posted a video of her in the hospital, I couldn;t watch it but knowing that it is there turns my stomach.

     

    After working at a burn unit, I am slightly relieved for her that she is free now of all that pain and I sincerely hope that she is at peace.  And that her attackers never find any in this life.

    1. The video has been on the internet for probably a week and a half – her mother posted it and got a lot of flack for it.  It was, in my opinion, the wrong thing to do.  It’s hard to watch.  But I think her mother thought it would make the situation more real for people.  I don’t know.

      I am glad she is out of the pain.  But – it’s been really hard for me to understand why she had to suffer for so long, and then die.

      1. I also hesitated to watch the video when it came out, but then I did, and I have to say it left me a very different impression than what I had expected.  I had read about the facts, but I do not understand Russian and there were no translated transcripts of what she was saying to the camera, so what came through through her eyes, her moves, her voice, what I gathered from the video was her young and fierce presence, intact in a spiritual sense, in spite of the horror, the violence of her torturers, the burning and the freezing, the amputation, and the shadow of death.

        I think it was a very good thing her mother did. It was as if I had actually met this young girl, Oksana Makar, I felt a personal responsibility towards her.

        I checked for updates on her condition every day and when she died yesterday…

        1. I think that – my guess is that you might come away with a different impression from the video if you spoke Russian.  Her mother is pressuring her to say something to the people of Ukraine, and she is clearly in pain and doesn’t want to, but her mother keeps pushing her.  It feels kind of exploitative.  I didn’t link to it in my articles here because – because it felt like somebody who didn’t want to have her privacy being invaded having it invaded nonetheless.  I understand why her mother wanted to do it, and I can’t judge it, but it didn’t feel right to me.

          1. Yes, you are right, this is something that does not come through in the video. Her mother may be exploitative, or not, or she maybe neither exploitative nor completely innocent. Still to have recorded this moment of lucidity in the midst of hospital treatment and long periods of induced coma and to have sent it to the world…

            Now you are also right to say, something positive may emerge from this regarding the way women are treated in this area of the world. Some reflection about the influence of particularly nasty pornography featuring ‘Eastern European’ women, the networks of prostitution, may lead to measures leading to better ways. And the pressure should be sustained. Any suggestions here would be welcome.

             

            1. Also, to film her on her hospital bed may have been the only way to show to Ukrainians that Oksana was conscious and able to speak, whereas the police had not even bothered asking her her version of the events before they released two of her torturers.

  3. I am wondering now who was this 4th person who lent his apartment or the apartment his parents rented for him and who apparently was around when all this happened  (as is mentioned repeatedly during interrogation of one of the three men who attacked Oksana Makar).

    1. Every time I’ve listened/watched the interrogation, I took it to mean that two of the men (Krasnoshchek and Pogosyan) met Makar at the bar, and then stopped back at Prisyazhniuk’s apartment as they were “walking Oksana home.”  So there were only three altogether.

    2. And – I thought there were four, as well.  During the interrogation, Krasnoshchek refers to him as хозяин квартиры (the owner/landlord/liver in the apartment), and it feels really, really weird.  Because he is talking about him as an acquaintance.  And they have just raped and attempted to murder a girl together.  But it’s just another way to refer to Prisyazhniuk.

      1. What I wanted to say was that it added to the overall feel of detachment from Krasnoshchek, who is *incredibly* detached during the interrogation.  It’s like he’s just reading through a description of what he observed at the museum this morning, and not recalling an act of true horror.

        1. Thank you for these precisions.  So it did happen in Prisyazhniuk’s apartment! Then indeed, his swift liberation by the local police is even more inexcusable than I had thought.  Was there a video of his interrogation online?

          And yes, Krasnoshchek’s distance with the facts he is telling is inhuman. At times it even seems as though he is smiling.

          1. I don’t think there is a video of Prisyazhniuk’s interrogation, but Krasnoshchek’s is here:  http://vk.com/video136818312_162465992

            I can’t tell from your comment if you’ve seen it or not.  The worst part, for me, is when he talks about how after they got rid of the body they go get some more beer and he has tea.  Tea.  He sits down for a cup of tea after doing this.

            If you haven’t seen it, brace yourself.  It is awful.

  4. It’s the fact that in many countries, some of them in Eastern Europe, the system effectively enables such vile, inhuman scum as these perps here, if only they’re connected well enough, that really gets to me. See also the multiple currenty brewing scandals over Russian police systematically torturing, raping and occasionally murdering people in custody with apparent impunity, because confessions make local crime solving statistics look good and get the police bonuses, and Russia’s justice system is so thoroughly corrupt complaints won’t get anywhere anyway. Even with the outrage, do I think these Ukrainian guys with well-connected parents are likely to get more than a couple of years in jail, tops? Nope, not likely.

    ETA: here’s a link to some news coverage about that Russian police thing, if anyone wasn’t already feeling upset enough.

    1. I agree with you in principle.  There has been such a public outcry that I’m hopeful that they will get something more.  They were well connected within the city of Mykolayiv, which is not like being related to Yanukovich.  People are talking about the death penalty.  The one good thing that i think might come out of this is that public anger may beat corruption on this one.  And because people have been fired in Mykolayiv for their involvement, it might make people in other cities re-think things.  I am hopeful.

  5. Susan, I’m from Eastern Europe and unfortunately I must tell you that in every country of ex-comunism here situation with women’s rights and laws for rape is disasterous ! I’m personally so involved in this horrific story, especially due to my own experience with sex-violence. I’ll pray for you , may God give you strength you will need to continue with this work . At this moment you are the voice of so many voiceless women! Step by step…it will be hard, but one day even here the laws must start changing finally !

    I have never ever in my life been so moved by something I read in newspapers. I feel almost as I knew her, I pray for her mother. I have empathy for all victims in world, especially victims of sexual abuse, but this…Your work is helping me at this moment, I know I’m not alone and that there are many, many people in the world that think and want the same, no matter how world  sometimes seemed to be dark and insensitive place.

     

    1. I’m having a similar reaction, and I can’t completely voice why.  It’s been rough on me.  I’m hopeful that the situation in Eastern Europe will get better – so many people have been so vocally upset about this.  People can’t ignore it anymore.  Hopefully.

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