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"Olya, it's me! I'm alive. I'm in Chechnya."

Squeeze the phone in your palms, never let go, and wait for the call. And when it does ring, feel first horror and then immense, all-encompassing happiness.

"I am alive."

In October, "Neopalymi" started treating a new patient. Despite the fact that there are many patients, each of them has a special story. And this patient was no exception. His story is a direct evidence of violations of the Geneva Convention. And at the same time, it is an indicator of inhuman treatment of prisoners at a completely different level - at the level of propaganda, at the level of ideology. During the torture, the Russian military carved a swastika on his forehead, thus giving symbolism to such seemingly commonplace torture, and revealing their own essence.

On February 23, 2022, Olha and her husband took a day off in the middle of the week - for the first time in a long time, they were planning to spend time together. They drove from Vinnytsia to the country to give themselves a break. The children stayed in the city. In the morning, on the 24th, Serhiy got up to make coffee, and at that moment he heard the first explosions. There was no time for coffee, he had to get the children out of the city despite the traffic. "Everyone is leaving the city, and we are going to the city because we have children here!" - Olha says, describing the endless stream of cars that was coming from Vinnytsia.

The children were taken away. A few days later, when buses started running and it was possible to get to the district military commissariat, Serhiy went there to join the army. After training, he was sent to the front line. One day, he went on a mission with a group, and one of the group came back wounded, and one did not return at all. Nothing was known about Resha. Olha thought the worst. In official documents, he was listed as missing - but...

So don't let your phone out of your hands. Keep it on and charged all the time. Do not leave it in another room. Do not fall asleep soundly. Wait for the call.

And then the call came, and the voice on the phone was so familiar. After two long weeks of waiting, he finally got the chance to call his family. At first, his wife did not realize it was him - the voice on the phone was so unexpected.

"Olya, it's me. I'm alive."

He said that his attitude was normal, that everything was fine - what else could he say? We could see through the video link that he was wearing a cap, and it was clear that something was wrong. We could say almost nothing, but we managed to report the number of prisoners and additional data.

After the long-awaited call, Olha was busy collecting information, searching for relatives of other prisoners who were in the same place, writing endless written statements and waiting outside the doors of offices. Nevertheless, after long bureaucratic processes, the prisoners were returned home thanks to the coordination headquarters.

Serhiy returned for Easter. "A double holiday," says his wife. "He was given two months to rehabilitate and receive psychological help. And after that he was forced to return to the service. For him, it was a matter of duty. "He had to do it." This reveals a problem that is actually much more global than this particular case. Captivity is a terrible thing, and therefore it is impossible to survive it and remain the same person as before. It is a mind-changing experience. It is clear that soldiers who return home to their country after such an experience are not in the best moral and physical condition. They need time to recover - to feel like they are among their own. To regain freedom, to feel it with all my being, in my heart and on my fingertips. To express your own will, to get rid of the feeling that it belongs to someone else. To stop hearing danger in an imperative form. To get used to the fact that dignity is here, and no one humiliates it. To feel like a human being, in the end. And two months is not enough time to get back to yourself.

In captivity, which fully complies with the Geneva Conventions, a person feels like a human being. He does not lose the basic freedom on which the value and dignity of each of us rests. Instead, in the captivity of our enemy, the Geneva Conventions lose their effect. They are trying to deprive people of everything that makes them "human," and dehumanization in most cases is the basis for doing things that we would never have thought of doing in our normal lives.

This is a problem with our legislation - the military are not given the opportunity to fully recover. They are trying to bring them back to the ranks as soon as possible - but does it make sense? The tired should get a rest, a chance to recover. A petition was created. Olha and her like-minded friends were actively involved in its distribution. The petition demands that soldiers be given the right to be discharged from service after returning from captivity. The document gained more than 26 thousand signatures. It is still under consideration, despite the fact that the deadline for consideration has already passed and there should be some results.

The army is a structure that operates by orders. Discipline and obedience to the team are what keeps this structure going and allows it to operate effectively. Captivity is a place where orders are not about teamwork and efficiency. In captivity, an order is about taking away freedom of liberty, depriving you of your dignity. That is why former prisoners of war, when they return to the army, hear only triggers, not commands. Triggers trigger traumatic memories, which is why it is so important to have time to recover. Watch your own words and actions, because you can do harm unconsciously.

After experiencing something inhuman, you want to forget it. You want to erase the traces of the events - both from your memory and from your skin. For some time, Serhiy wore a hat to hide his scars. Then Olha turned to the "Unburnable" - they had to find a way to treatment. The first procedure gave the result: the scars are no longer so noticeable. Serhiy is waiting for two more stages of treatment - they have to erase the remaining traces of captivity.

Recovery requires a lot of effort from both the person and the people around him. You can also get support and help from the outside, just like "Neopalymi" do. A lot of other people are invested in a person's recovery - because after the happiness that comes with an unexpected phone call, there are many more challenges waiting for them here, in the rear. And they need to be passed.

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