The Russians Targeted a Baptist Сhurch with an Aerial Bomb while Parishioners Sought Shelter Inside

We have already shared the impressive story of Pastor Oleksandr Salfetnikov from Balaklia, who was tortured by the Russians and forced to confess to being an American spy. Now, we will tell the story of the Baptists from the city of Izyum. During the Russian onslaught, the local community sought refuge in their church and miraculously survived being hit by an aerial bomb. They are convinced that the Russians deliberately targeted their church. See details below.

Izyum, Kharkiv region. Here, in March 2022, some of the fiercest battles took place. Ukrainians defended the city while the Russians bombarded it. A large part of Izyum was destroyed, with schools, hospitals, and churches suffering critical damage. Oleksandr Bagriy, a pastor of the “New Life” church in Izyum, meets us near his temple, or rather, what remains of it.

Oleksandr: Thank God, everyone survived.

On the night of March 6-7, an aerial bomb struck here.

– Do you believe you were specifically targeted?

Oleksandr: Well, whether it was intentional or not, they hit us.

At the time, parishioners, mostly women and children, were hiding inside from enemy shelling, believing that the church would not be targeted.

Oleksandr: There were twenty-six people inside when the bomb hit us. Immediately after, we started to evacuate people. We counted twenty-three, three were missing.

Immediately after the bombing, Oleksandr and other men rushed to rescue those trapped on the second floor, which was on fire.

Oleksandr: We had a sofa in a room on the second floor. We were all downstairs. I went upstairs, passed through here, and wanted to enter that office. As soon as I stepped inside, I fell down. The floor had collapsed, and the room was on fire.

Everyone survived that night.

Oleksandr: A mother and two children were sleeping on the second floor. They survived; we rescued them.

For the next two weeks, the church community lived amid continuous shelling. Their street was under constant attack, and people didn’t dare to leave the basement.

Oleksandr: We cooked food here, set up a brazier, and there was a fire. People were in both this basement and that one. It was scary to walk to get a plate of porridge. We used a rope to bring the food tray.

Mr. Oleksandr is referring to the basement of the adjacent house. Tatyana brought food trays for herself and her mother. Later, she joined the church where Mr. Oleksandr serves.

Tatyana: On March 5th, I came to this house to see my mother, who was alone there. I ended up staying for two months. On the first night, we went down to the basement due to heavy shelling and bombing.

As soon as the shelling stopped, the occupiers arrived.

Tatyana: There were Buryats and Chechens, but mostly soldiers from the DPR and LPR. There was a roadblock at the nearby bus stop.

Roman: They had lists and knew who they were looking for. When people with guns are around, you stay quiet and do as they say.

There was nothing left to take from the burned church. The occupiers checked documents, set up a roadblock nearby, and stopped raids on the “New Life” church. Instead, they focused on the “First Izyum Church,” also Baptist, on the other side of the Seversky Donets.

Yevhen: While we were having a service in the prayer house, a Russian came to us. He sat down, listened, and took out a device, maybe a phone, and recorded the sermon.

Evgeny Dadimov, a church pastor with 35 years of experience, previously worked as a paramedic. During the occupation, he crossed the river every day to conduct services. He recalls an incident when the occupiers shot at him while he was talking to a parishioner.

Evgeny: A woman came to me while I was in the garden. We were near the fence when someone started shooting at us with a machine gun, and the bullets pierced the fence. She asked, “Are they shooting at us?” I replied, “Yes, they are.”

His temple was also hit. A shell from an MRL Grad rocket struck the roof.

Evgeny: The roof was damaged; we had big holes in two places, here and on the other side.

Only after the occupiers left did our heroes realize how close they had been to death. Mass graves of local residents were discovered nearby in the forest where Russian soldiers had been hiding. In Izyum, torture chambers were found where the Russians systematically murdered Ukrainian civilians.