A Jewish man killed in Kiev’s Independence Square protests was buried Sunday in Chernivtsi, Ukraine, accompanied by a crowd of tens of thousands of mourners.
Alexander Scherbatyuk, 46, was shot by police snipers Thursday as he and fellow Afghanistan War veterans led the protest’s bloody struggle against Berkut government riot police.
At the height of the violence in Kiev’s Independence Square Thursday, dozens were killed and hundreds wounded when police snipers were deployed to the hilly rises surrounding the plaza. A government inquiry is set to investigate the use of police force.
According to The Daily Mail, troops of riot police fell to their knees in a Monday night rally and “begged forgiveness” for excessive force against antigovernment protesters. Others have taken their weapons and fled in anticipation of the investigation’s results.
Scherbatyuk and other Afghanistan War veterans first became involved in the protest movement after riot police brutally beat unarmed students in the first round of public upheavals three months ago. In subsequent months Scherbatyuk drilled and organized protesters in anticipation of another violent stand.
Scherbatyuk’s body made the eight-hour journey from Kiev, where he had spent the past several months deeply involved with the protest movement, to his family in Chernivtsi, where it was received by his wife and two children.
David Benish, head of the World ORT Representative Office for CIS, Central Asia, Caucasian States & Baltic States, attended the funeral Sunday outside Chernivtsi’s Museum of Bukovinian Jewish History and Culture. He estimates some 10,000 came to pay respects before the body, with a kippa placed upon it in a visual and unusual reminder of the victim’s Jewishness, was taken to the city’s central cemetery.
One of Scherbatyuk’s two children, Dan, is a ninth grader at the Chernivtsi ORT school. “Dan is an excellent student. When he started at the school he didn’t know anything [Jewishly]. Now he speaks Hebrew, he knows about Judaism and Israel,” Benish told The Times of Israel Tuesday after arriving mid-day from Kiev.
The Scherbatyuk family received initial financial support of 10,000 Ukrainian hryvna (approximately $1,000) from World ORT to cover immediate costs and Benish has approached donors for continuing support.
Benish is also reaching out for donations to defray the private armed security companies the four Ukraine ORT schools have employed. With the “significant unquiet” in the state, World ORT feels the safety of the children is top priority and paid out of pocket for the emergency school guards.
“Right now there’s no gunfire, but there’s a huge problem of personal security… there are potential problems with xenophobia — hopefully not anti-Semisitm, but in such chaos, things like this rear their heads,” said Benish.