A while ago I read about a Jew in Ukraine who was shot and killed by the Ukrainian military who thought he was an infiltrator from Russia. I stored it in the back of my mind wondering more about it. I knew they were trying to send the body to Israel for burial, but did not give it any more thought.
Then one night when I was watching the English language news, my ears perked up when they said that Roman's remains were buried that very day right here in Arad where we live. I thought to myself, "This is closer to home than I ever thought it would be." Had I known in time I would have tried to attend the funeral.
I phoned a friend from New York who had attended the same prayer service I did the day before. The reason I phoned him was because there was a large group of folks there whom I had never seen before remembering someone who died and I thought perhaps there was a connection with Roman.
But my friend who knows both Hebrew and English told me that there was no connection. The group praying at our synagogue were remembering someone who had died a while back. We went on to talk about the burial in Arad of the Jew killed in Ukraine. I do not know where he got the information, but he gave me the address of Roman’s father in Arad.
I began to gather all of the news items about Roman in order to better understand what happened and to write an article. Then I thought to myself, "Why don't I visit the parents of Roman. I knew that it was within walking distance of our apartment and is only a 15-minute walk. I had an idea as to where the street was and so headed in that direction with the help of Google Maps.
I knocked on the door and the only ones there were the parents and a granddaughter. The parents warmly welcomed me and asked me to take a seat. They asked if I knew Russian and I told them, “no”. Then they asked if I knew Hebrew and I told them not much. When I told them that I spoke English, the mother indicated that their granddaugher sitting not too far from me knew English and would translate for me.
It turned out that Sevtlana, their granddaughter in her 30s had flown in from Michigan to be with her family. She was so kind and told me a lot of information that was not in the news. She is a single Mom and will be returning to the States after her visit to be with her children.
I was so glad that I went and met the parents and could talk in English to learn more about what happened. As I was leaving they all thanked me and told me how much they appreciated my coming.
I was fortunate that their granddaughter from the US told me more details of what happened.
In Kyiv Roman started a very successful digital advertising company. At the time of his death he was separated from his wife, Rita, but the divorce was not finalized. When the Russians invaded Ukraine, Roman and others decided it would be best to leave Ukraine. They heard that it was fairly easy to cross into Mordovia and headed for the border in a convoy of 5 cars. Roman encouraged Rita to join the convoy and leave Ukraine with his children, but she turned down the offer because she felt it would be too dangerous. That decision may have saved her life.
On the way to the border as the convoy was passing a Ukrainian check point, the Ukrainian soldiers who mistakenly thought the car he was driving was that of a Chechen fighter’s car, started shooting at the cars. Roman’s girlfriend who was driving a car behind him jumped out of her car to help Roman. When she found that he had been killed, she ran to the woods and hid until the scene was quiet. She contacted her father who is an officer in the Ukrainian army and returned to the car with Roman’s body. She drove the car and connected with her father. Together they drove to where there was a morgue, but found it was closed. They had no choice but to keep the body in the car overnight. The next day found a morgue that was open and could properly handle the body.
At Roman’s father’s request the Israel government began to arrange for Roman’s body to be flown to Israel for burial. Israel representatives were able to get the body out of Ukraine to Mordovia. Mordovia refused to allow El Al airlines to land in Mordovia so he body was transported by car to Romania where the body was flown to Israel.
Roman’s ex-wife wanted to return to Israel to be with family, but was unable to leave. She and the children are in hiding somewhere in Kyiv trying to stay safe. It is hard because she does not have any money or even a bank account.
And that is one story.
Frank Mecklenburg is a freelance writer living in Arad/