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Attempt on the life of Natalya Kovalyova

The Head of the review commission of the Federal national-cultural autonomy “Ukrainians in Russia”, Natalya Kovalyova, was brutally assaulted in Tula

On 19 July at 10 a.m., my wife Natalya Kovalyova (Medvediuk), Deputy Head of the Tula  regional civic  organization “Batkivska striha” (“Parent’s roof”) and the Tula branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Russia, Deputy Director of the company “Gobza” Ltd was brutally assaulted and maimed by two assailants in the entrance to our offices. They hit her in the face with a metal rod, found at the place of the assault, nearly destroying her right eye and breaking her teeth. She fell from the blows and hit her head on a pipe, and only her long thick hair saved her from worse injury. The blows ripped one third of the skin from her scalp. Her facial bones were fractured, and she suffered cerebral haemorrhaging.

Nothing was taken by the attackers. Natalya does not remember anything, but, judging from the nature of the blows and the injuries on her arms and legs, she tried to defend herself, thus saving her life.

When I saw her lying on the stairs, I felt numb with horror. Her face was shattered and bleeding, only her left eye was visible, white with pain. There was blood everywhere. Natalya remained conscious, and lay in agony in my arms until the ambulance arrived and gave her a sedating injection.  When they reached the hospital, she was taken immediately to the operating theatre. The operation lasted seven hours.

The first to react to this tragedy, were our compatriots Hrystyna Kashyba, Taras Dudko, Volodymyr Zarichansky and Vitaly Lyashuk.  I am deeply grateful to them, especially to Taras Dudko for all the moral and material support he gave.

Natalya was fighting for her life in the critical care unit for three days. The doctors were amazed that she pulled through, and said that it was only thanks to her will to survive. Her first words after the operation were: “How is Volodya?” (in such a state she asked, first of all, not about herself, but about me!) and “I want to live!”. Only later Natalya said to me that she did not want to die there, in Russia, she did not want to be buried on Russian land.

For two nights in the critical care neurosurgical ward, she slept very restlessly, and asked for a Ukrainian book and Ukrainian embroidered towel. I brought her a small pocketbook and a towel embroidered with black and cherry-coloured thread. Natalya likes this colour and says that the real red colour is just this cherry colour, as in Ukraine.

So, at night she put the book under her pillow and covered her head with the towel. And she had a dream that she gathered the Zaporizhye Cossacks to battle, and Taras Shevchenko came to her. After that Natalya started to recover little by little.

After the neurosurgery ward Natalya stayed at home for some time, and is now having treatment in the ophthalmologic department of the hospital. A long term, from one to three years, will be needed for full rehabilitation. Natalya remains calm and courageous and discreet. Sometimes she cries, but quietly, so as not to disturb me. She was accustomed to work at full pace, but now she gets tired quickly, and this depresses her.

We hope for the best and that everything will come right. Thank you for your support, because every word of sympathy is very important for Natalya now.

The police have been very passive in investigating the case. We are trying at the same time to conduct our own investigation. There are many versions. I will mention them all, although some look rather fantastic: an attempted robbery, revenge for domestic reasons, work-related revenge, competition at work, competition in public activities, attack by skinheads, attack by the FSB.

At the present moment all versions are equally proven. Every version is confirmed by some details, which cannot be described in one letter. Yet I would reiterate that one version is connected with her public activities, with the national question, our views, etc. This version is quite probable, and there is some confirmation. For example, the blinds on five windows of our office bear the colours of the Ukrainian flag, and on 15 July we had organized a Ukrainian song occasion with the windows half open.

It is very difficult to recover psychologically, so all plans for work and public activities have been ruined. Nobody who by, or why.

By the way, a week ago, on 28 August, an FSB officer came to our office and had a talk with me. The pleasant talk lasted for 2.5 hours. Mainly he was interested whether our Tula Ukrainian community obtained financial aid from Ukraine, from other Dasporas or from outside organizations and people. At the end of this long conversation I lost my patience and asked him what exactly he wanted from me. He looked away and said that recently the offices of some civic organizations had been used by terrorist organization for their business.  I believe that you can draw the conclusions by yourself.


Yours sincerely,

Volodymyr Senyshyn,

Head of the Tula regional civic organization “Batkivska striha”

Head of the Tula branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Russia

Tula  6 October 2006

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