Torture, beatings, kidnapping of children: Kherson taxi driver about months of life in the occupation  

Dumskaya special correspondent Dmitry Zhogov continues to communicate with people who survived the Russian occupation. And he never ceases to be horrified by what is happening.

There is such a story by the Belarusian Vasil Bykov “The Sign of Trouble”. It was published in 1982. By the way, she was awarded the Lenin Prize. And that’s why.

I read it and felt all the horror of the war through the psychology of the Soviet peasants. An elderly couple – the stern old woman Stepanida and her husband, the weak-willed and gentle Petrok, worked hard on the collective farm. God knows how they lived, but they did not starve (although they may have starved, but the author does not mention this).

When the Germans came, the villagers decided that they would live under the invaders. The people are hardworking. But the pig from the Fritz, however, was hidden. Petrok brewed moonshine for the soldiers and policemen, Stepanida grazed a cow with a deaf and mute shepherd boy, the peasants slowly stocked up on potatoes from the collective farm field. Luckily no one got caught. But peaceful coexistence with the new government did not work out. The Nazis killed the weak-minded shepherd boy, shot the cow, and then beat the quiet Petrok and took him away with a noose around his neck. Stepanida also died.

“The most powerful anti-war work,” enthusiastically wrote about the story. Indeed, the Soviet reader understood that even if your life is not sugar, repressions and collectivization, then with an impudent occupier who is allowed to rob and kill, there will be a complete pipets.


Denis Epifantsev worked as a taxi driver in Kherson. He miraculously managed to survive. Shaved head. Visible scar. He willingly recalls what happened in the occupied city. Some of his story will seem repulsive. We are all used to heroism. But this is the story of an ordinary person, whose ordinary, measured life turned into hell.

Before the war, Denis was a taxi driver on a European badge – a BMW of the third series. And that’s not his. Rented. One and a half thousand a week, take it out and put it in. The taxi service had a good reputation. It worked quietly and calmly. According to the schedule, which he developed for himself. From five to ten in the morning he took people to work. Then lunch. From four in the evening he brought back home.

– As the war (we are talking about a full-scale invasion – Ed.) began, complete chaos began. Traffic rules were not observed absolutely. We have Rabochaya Street, which intersects with Gorky. She is one-sided. And usually, if the traffic lights don’t work, you look to the right to see if anyone is driving. And here you have to look both to the right and to the left. At that time, “Zetka”, as we called KAMAZ trucks and all their equipment, was carrying customers, and flashed a few centimeters to the left! He immediately hit the brakes. She would just run over me. Passengers are dumbfounded! Yes, Russians drive as they please. On the opposite side, he drives and does not wait for you to turn off or not. He will not turn, that’s for sure, because he has strength there. It’s you who needs to stand on the side of the road and away, so as not to be hooked.

Did you have any thoughts about leaving?

– No, there were no such thoughts. Our guys who went against Neftyanikov when there was resistance, almost all died (we are talking about the tragedy of the Kherson territorial defense, which almost completely died in the first week of the invasion: without heavy weapons, competent command and training, these heroes simply failed give a worthy rebuff to the occupiers, Dumskaya will definitely write about them – Ed.). I wanted to go too. The wife and children were not allowed. She stood in front of the gate and said: “You won’t go anywhere!” And it was very painful and annoying for me to see the burned-out cars the next day, and then how these guys were buried. Kherson did not want to leave until the last.

– Were there many collaborators?

– Were. My children ran around selling pies. And they shouted in Ukrainian: “Hot pies with potatoes and cabbage!” And one woman, a local collaborator, started yelling, “Binders! Damn binders! She broke a three-liter bottle on me. The son began to cry. And she spits. The son screams: “For what? Because we speak Ukrainian?”


Denis, his wife Alina and their two sons are Russian speakers. Or rather, how…. The boys more or less speak Ukrainian. Denis and Alina can make a couple of sentences on Surzhik, smiling guiltily. But it is felt that they, like many others, are unpleasant that they do not know the state. Alina is proud that the children sang “Oh, there is red viburnum in the meadow” during the occupation on the street. But it was also scary.

And then there was a rumor that the occupiers were giving money for children. Ten thousand Russian rubles. Alina immediately said: “I don’t need their money. And they won’t go to Russian school.” And she also refused to receive humanitarian aid from them. Because I didn’t want to “shine” with my documents. There were rumors that those who did not send their children to a Russian school would be taken away from them. And then there are small toy machine guns out of the bushes aiming at the occupiers. Close to disaster. And Alina left with the children. I was able to get to Odessa. Only Denis remained. Still “taxi”. Guard the house from marauders.

“I took most of the people to the river port, to the crossing,” he says. – Everyone fled from Kherson. And they thought they were on the right track. And many disappeared to nowhere. I heard that camps were being prepared for us in Siberia. I don’t know if it’s true or not. But the children were taken away. Announcements were posted that children were preparing holidays in Gelendzhik, Artek. Many parents fell for it. Supposedly for two weeks. Two weeks later, no kids. Anyone who wants to pick up their children must go himself. But the parents did not return. I know that boarding schools were taken out. Boarding school for deaf and dumb children, where about forty people were taken out. And that’s it. I don’t have them.


Taxi drivers are cynical people. Hvatky. They won’t let theirs go. And Denis cursed with the invaders and boldly defended his hard-earned money.

– I took the order. It was necessary to bring them to Chernobaevka. One is Buryat, the other is from Arkhangelsk. The third is a rare beast, a Muscovite. Drove, and they say: let’s move on. More. They have four bottles of vodka with them. Five cans of beer. They show: we need to go there, they say, to land. I say “No. If you want, shoot. I won’t go there. The car is low. And there the tank recently passed. My car will sit on its belly and that’s it. Them: “Okay. How much from us? I name the amount in hryvnia – six hundred. This one takes out rubles and starts counting rubles for me. I say: “I don’t take rubles.” He immediately punches him in the face. I got lost. And he started arguing. They were a bit pissed off, but paid off. True, they really didn’t have hryvnia – they paid in rubles, but at the rate. True, they did not know him. As a result, I counted them not for six hundred hryvnias, but for two thousand, – my interlocutor laughs maliciously.

And then the inevitable happened. The fact that Denis has been lucky so far is most likely not his merit, but their flaw.

– The order, when it arrives, you don’t know who you are taking, – the Kherson citizen continues. Whom and where. And will you come back or not. They called me, I had to pick up a girl of easy virtue from the FSB officer in Chernobaevka. I went. Money was needed, and a trip to Chernobaevka was paid at a double rate. And it was already nine o’clock yesterday. Our first checkpoint was at the car market. The National Guard was there. And, as at any checkpoint, you get out of the car, show your documents, open the trunk…

They say: “Uncle, are you aware that the curfew is coming soon? You will be on time?” I say: “I just need to pick up the girl and come back,” “Okay, go. If you can make it in twenty minutes, then it’s good.”

There, near the monument to the aircraft (“Aviators in honor of the 40th anniversary of the victory,” Ed.), Before the second checkpoint, I, as expected, drive 20 kilometers per hour and use the emergency gang. Many said that those checkpoints where the “DNR” stood, it is better not to get caught in their shift. And I got.

I just turn around, I hear shots. I realized that in the air. I stop. I hit the brakes. They run to me. I’m in the glove compartment for documents. I get out of the car and poke documents. In response, I get the butt of a Kalashnikov in the breather. And then I don’t remember well. They beat me anywhere. The only thing I remember: “This is for you for eight years of Donbass!” All in snippets. Outbreaks. Here they are pulled by the hands on the ground, and then thrown into the pit. It seems to be shallow – the funnel was near the plane itself. They were fired at in Chernobaevka well. That’s where they threw me into it. My head was pierced, my ribs were broken. The collarbone has been torn out. The teeth were knocked out. They thought they had killed me and covered me with earth. And when I woke up, I lay quietly. I think now they will disperse, and I will slowly crawl home.

They took my phone and money. And a car.

And then this FSB officer calls me on the phone. I heard from the pit. They were ten meters away from me. And their FSB officer began to swear. They immediately: “That’s right! Yes sir!” And two people immediately ran up to me. Pulled out of the pit, shaken off the ground. They gave bream. They ask: “Alive?” – I answer yes. “You do understand that this is for prevention?” “Yes, guys, I’m sorry, please.”

Sat in the car. I have four broken ribs. The chest is on fire. All covered in blood. He moved in a state of shock. I rolled down, there is such a descent … I took the girl. I went to the first checkpoint where the National Guard was stationed. They ask, “What happened to you? We missed you normal, ”“ Unsuccessfully got out of the car. I stumbled and fell.” What will I tell them? They are all together. They say to me with a laugh: “And everyone falls down there! Okay, move on.”


Denis arrived covered in blood. Barely alive. There are almost no doctors left in the city: most of them have left. He decided that he would get out on his own. But it didn’t work out.

– I have swelling of the head began – says the taxi driver. — The temperature jumped to forty. I’m afraid to lose consciousness while driving, I went to the hospital. They said: we need to cut, but we don’t do that now. I bought antibiotics. And ointments. And in the hospital, in neurosurgery, I observed such a picture. In the admissions department on the first floor, Ukrainian nurses shouted: “Mi tsikh padlyuk is by no means acceptable! – they are about the Chechens. “Let them go where they want, they rejoice there!”

The Kadyrovites stood at the end of the corridor. There is also a crying girl. I went outside to smoke. Chechens, it turns out, her father was brought from a torture chamber in a former sobering-up station. Men’s eyes were burned out there for refusing to learn the Russian anthem. And my grandfather is already seventy, he does not need it. He is Ukrainian. They gave him a text. He said he couldn’t see well. And then they burned out his eyes. When he was brought to the hospital … The spectacle is something else. They also took a picture of his head.

My daughter looked at the Kadyrovites, and in her eyes I saw how she was mentally tearing them apart.

There is a nine-story building next to this former sobering-up station. So people moved out. Fully. Because they could not stand the screams that stood there at night. There they tortured, naturally tortured. I transported many women from Kherson, whose husbands, sons-in-law, sons disappeared.

And they couldn’t see them. They just carried parcels there for four months. And they were told: “He’s fine.” They didn’t let me talk on the phone: “Let’s transfer!” And who ate this transmission is unknown.


– Did you often take prostitutes? – I ask the interlocutor.

– Yes. I talked to them. They say it’s our job. We have to feed the children. Many families left Kherson. The men stayed, and if someone wanted a girl, they could not find it. Because all the girls worked exclusively for the Russians. They paid well.

The Kadyrovites occupied all the hotels and the Russians swore a lot, because in all the hotels there were these … “Akhmat power” with girls. And the Russians were in the first positions. They had a lot of friction among themselves. Between Russians and Chechens, between Buryats and Chechens. They could start a shootout in the city center. I even observed such a picture. We have a Central Department Store in the city center. Big hypermarket. I came to pre-order. I rolled up to the main entrance and stood. Here the doors open, the Buryats come out and the Chechens come in. All with automatics. They do not give way to each other, like sheep on a bridge, they push each other with their shoulders. And of course they do it on purpose. And right there, at the entrance, disassembly begins. Reloading machine guns. And I’m sitting and praying to God: the client would soon come out to leave from there. They might as well start shooting.

– Aren’t the girls afraid to go to such clients?

– No. They were all on drugs. They used everything. And orcs too. I even had a case when I took Russians to bookmarks. Diggers! Some asked me: “Do you have any mushrooms?”

– In terms of? What mushrooms? Fly agaric?

– They’re all under something. They weren’t normal. If they did not eat mushrooms, then they smoked salt. Or they drank vodka. They needed something to pump up. This is their army. The only ones who are sober and tidy are the special forces. And so … There is a “Dener” in a dirty uniform, the machine teleports, the muzzle is erased on the asphalt. And in pink women’s slippers. Someone in the apartment squeezed.


– If ours were hit with “Haymars”, then they hit pointwise. And when they flew to the military registration and enlistment office or to the police school, the next day all those living around did not go and lament: “Oh, there is a residential area right there, why are they shooting.” They walked and clapped. They applauded. Well done. We got where we need to go. Into the hornet’s nest. The Russians don’t have corpse trucks. They took our garbage trucks. Here, for example, they flew to the military enlistment office on Parovoznaya. Ten garbage trucks drove in, and then the loaded ones drove off towards the landfill. The next day, the city is covered in burning, soot. There is nothing to breathe. They burned the bodies. To them, it’s just meat. And on Chernobaevka, how many dogs have fattened up! They walk like calves!

– And the partisans were in the city?

– We rented a house on Polevaya Street. 44th number. And our partisans were in the 92nd. There was a shootout. They fired from an RPG, then we hear shots, like from a tank. It turned out that the Russians somehow figured out our guys. And one guy took the hit. So that everyone else can leave.

He resisted for five hours alone. And they shot at the house with whatever they could. All streets and entrances to the house were blocked. Two armored personnel carriers stand on the street and fire. There, of course, they destroyed half the house. And the guys, 11 people, left. Remained alive.

– Have you ever thought, let’s say, not to take the occupier to its destination?

Hearing my question, Denis perks up:

– It often happened when they passed us, and they drove like this: “Look, two orcs have gone. Now they will come outside the market and we will…” Nearby are the lads from the market. Pivasik grunted and said: “Come on!”.

And these felt or heard and let’s drapaka! They jumped into their “loaf” and fled. The boys say they didn’t even have time to do anything. And not only thoughts were also offers. We talked with the guys. We have such an eatery. “Silence” is called. I brought one Dagestani and two Russians. By citizen. Apparently the military. They rushed to me out of breath: “Faster! Faster, gas!” The Dagestani was indignant: “If I had a machine gun, I would show them!”

It turned out that the civilian orcs in “Silence” decided out of habit to command. Yes, they forgot that without weapons. Well, they ran into. Barely took the legs. Then the drivers told me, “We should have brought them to our garage! We wouldn’t have left from there.” And we decided: if such a chance falls, so do it.

– If a Russian gets into your car after the war, will you serve him?

– Most likely no. Not even like that. I’m more than sure not. After everything you’ve been through, after the bombings, when you throw your children behind the sofa, cover them with a mattress and sit, wait, they won’t fly. No never!

Denis left Kherson. Reunited with family in Odessa. He got lucky. He stayed alive. Now he knows for sure: during trials there are only two ways – for or against. There is no third.

Author — Dmitry Zhogov



  1. Thanks for posting their stories Sir Veth. A tough read as many of the horrific details are. From eye watering to gut wrenching to a burning rage at what rashists do and have done. Interesting that the cabbie witnessed the clash between buryats, orcs and kadaverites in Xepcoh. I shudder to think of how we only know the surface of the atrocities committed by the genocidal horde.

    • Absolutely Sir Bill, there will be a thousand stories once some semblance of a normal life returns to Ukraine and even then, I fear many will just want to forget about it and move on. I’m looking forward to our declaration of Independence day….on 9 May every year and watch the outrage from Moskovia. How fitting?

  2. They smoke salt? Is this translated correctly? I’ve never heard of that. Do they smoke shit too?
    There will be tens of thousands of horror stories to be told, when these despicable cockroaches have been flushed out of Ukraine.

    • I think it may have been slang for meth or crack, but I’ve seen stories of them drinking hair tonic, mouthwash, and doing other drugs, maybe they did in fact smoke bathsalts or something. If it’s something stupid or despicable good chance orcs have done it or will.

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