Recently the story of Ksenia Levadna, a Ukrainian woman who fled the war to Germany, was actively spread on social networks. One day Ksenia found the letters Z scratched on the door of her car with Ukrainian license plates. The woman believes that the Russians did it. This is not the first case of aggression against Ukrainians in other countries. It turns out that even abroad, where bombs do not fall and constant sirens are not heard, Ukrainians cannot feel protected. Zaborona spoke to three Ukrainians who suffered from aggressive actions and explains how to protect yourself from the actions of Russians abroad.
Battle for the Ukrainian flag
Serhiy Kosiak is one of those people who experienced the war eight years before February 24. He worked as a pastor in the Protestant Church in Donetsk. For this, terrorists who occupied the city in 2014 kidnapped him and tortured him in the basements of the so-called DNR.
At the time of the full-scale Russian attack, Serhiy lived in Germany. At first, he planned to return to Ukraine, but eventually stayed – he realized that he would be more useful there. With like-minded people, he began organizing the evacuation of Ukrainians to Germany. In the German city of Bautzen, Serhiy and his team meet refugees, seek housing and provide them with everything they need.
Kosiak now works as a priest at a local Protestant church and heads a center for helping Ukrainians in Bautzen. He travels around the city in his car with a little Ukrainian flag attached to the glass. First, someone broke this flag when Serhiy’s car was parked. The next day, the man found a broken side mirror of the car.
The third time Serhiy’s car was attacked right on the road – this incident was recorded by his DVR camera.
“I just drove, didn’t touch anyone, didn’t honk, didn’t violate traffic rules. I drove to the intersection, and there was already a car at a red traffic light. Apparently, the driver of this car had seen me and this flag before. I stopped, and he began to reverse, pushing me to the car behind me. I couldn’t go around or turn back,” Serhiy Kosiak recalls the incident in a conversation with Zaborona.
At first, the man thought that the driver of the car in front was simply failing to maneuver. He signaled for the car to stop. However, in a couple of seconds, the driver got out of the car, opened the trunk, took out a crowbar, and went to Serhiy’s car.
“My reflexes worked, I don’t even know where they came from. Everything was instantaneous. I can’t even explain why I reacted like that. I did not hide or panic. When he approached and tried to open the door, I jumped out to meet him. I blocked the first blow he made with a crowbar. I grabbed his arm and began to push him to his car. And abruptly threw him back into it. Then I held him back because he was trying to get out and beat me,” says Serhiy.
During the skirmish, the driver shouted obscene words in Russian, offended, and demanded to remove the flag. Serhiy was shocked and did not immediately feel someone pulling him away from the attacker. A woman next to him pushed him – later it turned out that she was the attacker’s wife. The drivers of other cars in the queue at the traffic lights, who witnessed the attack, also tried to separate the two men.
Serhiy Kosiak says he does not remember where his attacker went. He simply disappeared, and Serhiy left on his own business. Later he decided to watch the DVR. After some time, after completing urgent volunteer work, the priest called the interpreter and asked him to go together to the police.
“They listened to me, took testimony. The policewoman said that it definitely shouldn’t be like that. I went home. In two days I was called again to clarify some details, because, apparently, my attacker also wrote a statement or something like that,” the man said.
The second time Serhiy went to the police without an interpreter. There they photographed his car, measured the size of the flag hanging on the glass, and said they would set up a date for a more detailed conversation when there would be an interpreter.
“When I came to my senses, I supplemented my testimony with new facts, because I was threatened – different people wrote to me on Facebook, and at the entrance to our center somebody drew a capital letter Z,” says Kosiak.
The aid center, headed by Serhiy, later held a rally in support of Ukraine. This event was planned before the attack, its purpose is to thank German society and the government for accepting Ukrainian refugees. Serhiy Kosiak took the microphone at the rally and said that Ukrainians in Germany need protection from local Russians just as they need protection from those who came with weapons to Ukrainian lands.
“German society should react somehow. Here are mostly our women with children, and their husbands are staying in Ukraine. Some thugs may tell them, “It’s you who are shooting at yourself.” German society does not understand that this is an evil they do not oppose. Russian, or rather, Soviet-Russian propaganda said today that Ukrainians are enemies, tomorrow they will say that Germans are enemies. All this mass of thugs who live here will stand up and protest. Then they will take up arms,” Serhiy said.
This case became widely known on social networks and the media, including the German ones. Probably because of this, the mayor of Bautzen and the governor of the region know about the situation. In addition, Serhiy managed to meet with the local police chief – he contacted the man.
“They feel that something bad is happening, but they don’t know how to react. They understand that this is wrong, but they do not have mechanisms at the legislative level,” says Serhiy. “Germany has not yet passed laws to stop all these pro-Russian movements. Russians can arrange peaceful rallies with Russian flags, but they don’t take only them. They also take the flags of the DNR and Novorossiya, showing all the symbols Russia is currently using at war in Ukraine.”
Theft of Ukrainian license plate
Tetiana Khokhlova and her children were forced to flee Kyiv after Russia began bombing the Ukrainian capital. The family came to the German city of Neuss. On May 31, the woman went on business, and when she stopped in the city parking lot, it turned out that the Ukrainian license plate disappeared from her car. The woman thinks that it was stolen at night, she just didn’t notice it right away.
Tetiana immediately went to the police. They accepted the application and told her to wait until the plate is found. When the woman returned home, she inspected the crime scene again and found a piece of the frame from the plate.
“The police themselves said that it may be the Russians. I asked: why would they take my number plate? I was told that “everyone knows why.” In addition, the price of petrol has risen. Gas stations here have a different system: first, you fill up with gasoline, and then you go to pay. Numbers can be stolen in order to fill up the car and leave without paying. If my numbers are recorded on cameras, then they won’t find real fuel thieves,” explains Tetyana.
The Ukrainian woman also decided to tell about this case on social networks. Subscribers recommended her to put duplicates. However, the police forbade her to do so – if the stolen numbers are recorded during the crime, the woman will have problems. At the same time, it is not only forbidden to move around the city without license plates, but also to keep such cars in the parking lot. In the end, the local police advised the woman to put a copy of the application to the police about the theft of numbers under the windshield.
Tetiana appealed to the Ukrainian embassy, but they also said that they could not help. The woman also can’t change her license plate, because she will have to go to Ukraine to do so, and a car without a license plate will not be allowed even to leave Germany.
“We are thinking about returning to Kyiv. But it is unclear what to do with this car. We are stuck here. That’s why we just have to wait,” says Tetiana.
Anastasiya Khodosevych came from Kharkiv. Since the war, she has been living in Sesimbra near Lisbon, Portugal. There, a girl rents an apartment with her family. Sesimbra is a resort town where there is almost nothing but the ocean, the port, and houses for rent to tourists.
Near the house where Anastasiya now lives, there is a parking lot where the girl left her car. In early June, she was about to leave for Lisbon, got out of the car, and saw a scratch from the rear to the front headlights on the passenger side. The scratch was deep – the girl believes that it was made by the key.
“I called the host and asked what the hell was going on. Of course, I thought it was the Russians – in this parking lot my car was the only one with Ukrainian license plates. I went around and inspected all the cars that were there, but only mine was scratched. The host said that it was pointless to turn to the cops, they would do nothing. There are no cameras there, they won’t be able to find anyone,” Anastasiya recalls in a conversation with Zaborona.
The owner of the apartment rented by the girl advised her to relax and said that some drunken Spaniards could have done it – this had already happened to his car. The girl listened and did not go to the police. However, three days later she went to the parking lot again and saw the same scratch on the other side of the car.
“I got very angry. It wasn’t an accident, it certainly wasn’t an accident. They returned, they had the mind and courage to do so. They scratched my car from headlight to headlight, with a key or a knife – I don’t know. Then I went to the police,” said the Ukrainian.
The girl spent three hours at the police station. In the end, they said that, most likely, Anastasiya blocked someone’s garage and so his owner decided to take revenge on her. “They do not understand, they do not believe that the Russians can do it. But I showed them all the photos and posts where people from Germany, Denmark, and Bulgaria described similar cases. The police were shocked that this was happening at all. They told me never to approach the car if I saw anyone there, and be sure to call them first,” she said.
The case stopped on that. Anastasiya continues to drive her car. Many people ask about these scratches – the driver tells everyone who did it and why. The girl sees in this her educational mission – to show by her example that Ukrainians suffer from the “Russian world” even abroad.
The Ukrainian does not hope that the police will be able to find the perpetrators. None of the neighbors saw cars with Russian license plates nearby. Now Anastasiya parks the car in another place and hopes for some help from human rights activists involved in such cases.
“The mother of an acquaintance of mine was walking a dog in Berlin, and the Russians decided to set their dogs on them. When I heard this, I decided to tell my story on social media. Then I saw the story of a girl in Germany, who had the letter Z scratched on her car. An acquaintance also wrote to me that their car was scratched in Germany and the letter Z was painted white next to the car.
What to do if you are attacked by Russians abroad?
The most important thing is to gather evidence for the investigation. In the case of Serhiy Kosiak, almost the entire incident was recorded on a video camera. The video also shows the number plate of the car with the driver who attacked Serhiy. Because of this, the police immediately identified the attacker.
Even if there is no video evidence of the moment of the crime, go to the police. Insist that the offenses should be classified as a crime based on hatred of Ukrainian identity. Local authorities need to understand that cases are not isolated and the problem is much more serious than just petty hooliganism or theft.
In case the attacker can file a counterclaim against you, you should find a lawyer. Ukrainian refugees abroad can also count on free legal aid. For a list of organizations, you can contact in different countries, see here.
At the same time, it is very important to cover the situation as actively as possible on social networks and the media. You can write about what happened to you to the e-mail address of our editorial office. Publicity may help you recoup your expenses through charities that help Ukrainians, or through local authorities. Also, the more we talk about these cases, the closer we will bring the international community to the conclusion that Russians are dangerous even outside their aggressor country.