How Kiev’s Negligence Killed Children in the “Viktoriya” Children’s Camp in Odessa

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


A terrible tragedy happened in Odessa late in the evening of September 15th. During a strong fire in the “Viktoriya” children’s camp two children closed in a room died, and one more girl from the same room is considered missing.

At around midnight the new wooden building in the “Viktoriya” children’s camp lit up like a match and completely burned down. At the time of ignition there were 42 children inside.

The “Viktoriya” sports-sanative complex is a municipal one – the founder is listed as the Odessa City Council. The building burned in an area of 500 sq.m, and nearby adjacent buildings started being engulfed. The horrifying details of what happened on the night of the fire were revealed.

The pressure in the hydrant on the territory of camp was insufficient, there was no access to a fire reservoir, and in the reservoir there was no water. In the hydrants, next to the camp, there was also no pressure, and firefighters had to lay down hoses 1200 meters from the place of the fire.

The volunteer Andrey Tantsyura, who posted several videos on Facebook on the night of September 15th with live streams from the camp, also reported difficulties with fire extinguishing and claims that the during attempts to phone the firefighters, an automated response lasted for 20 minutes.

The fact of a lack of water and pressure in the fire reservoir and hydrants in the camp and its vicinities turned out to be even not the most horrible thing. In the video recorded by local journalists from the smouldering ruins, eyewitnesses reported that three children were simply forgotten in one room.

“There is no fire alarm system, there are no hoses, there is no fire reservoir. Three children from one room disappeared. Three! In one room! They were forgotten!” said the local emotionally.

Initially the children were considered as lost in the night’s chaos. The personnel of the camp stated that the children probably were frightened and ran to the sea, however this was only their assumption — among leading personnel there wasn’t anyone who could say that they brought precisely these children out.

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Later after parsing the burned-down remains of the big fire among of the building the bodies of two girls were found. All of them were from one room. The third child still hadn’t been found.

Many claim that the children who died in the fire were simply forgotten inside the building amidst the chaos and turmoil. While the children themselves described that younger pupils were locked in their rooms for the night — a mass of information confirming this data appeared on the Internet.

Those who jumped out the windows, escaping from the fire, testifies to the fact that the children were locked in their rooms from the outside. Now the girl who was traumatized after landing on the ground in the form of three cracked vertebrae is in hospital. Near her is a girl who was poisoned by the smoke. Their condition is stable.

Also children reported that during their stay in the camp they couldn’t use electrical devices properly — electricity cables constantly sparked. People who were at the place of events also spoke about flying sparks from electricity cables.

The adviser to the head of the National Police in the Odessa region Ruslan Forostyak wrote on his Facebook page that “after the fire in the children’s camp a criminal case was opened on signs of Part 2 of Article 270 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine ‘Violation of the Requirements of Fire Safety Established by Legislation'”. Later, in comments, Forostyak confirmed the information that the fire alarm system in the camp didn’t work.

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The “Viktoriya” sports-sanative camp was solemnly opened in May, 2017. The “Yug-Ukrstroy” firm was involved in its reconstruction. On the Internet there is information that before the gaining the tender for reconstruction of the camp, a criminal case for forgery of documents was opened against this firm.

As for the new wooden buildings, according to the children’s parents, they were built without the appropriate fire-prevention treatment in the form of special impregnation. And it is precisely for this reason that the building quickly lit up and was instantly ablaze. How the new wooden buildings were approved after their reconstruction and who did it is the main question.

However, 11 million hryvnia from the local budget, in addition to the already established 22 million, was allocated for fire safety, as well as for an automatic alarm system.

“During construction works, additional volumes of work were necessary, which was unforeseen by officials of ‘Yug-Ukrstroy’ in the project documentation — the installation of an automatic fire alarm system and internal power supply was found. As a result the cost of the reconstruction of the children’s complex increased to 33,301,320 hryvnia,” wrote the local “Timer” newspaper in the summer of 2016.

A separate fact is that this children’s camp was personally inspected by the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, who also participated in the ceremonial opening. In his congratulatory speech, Poroshenko called the camp “fantastic”.

“You choose your road, you choose your destiny, and destiny chooses you. In this fantastic place you can come on holiday, you can study,” said Poroshenko.

On the website of the Presidential Administration following the results of the visit to camp “Viktoriya” it is said that “reconstruction for the health-improving Viktoriya complex started from 2015. For this period capital repairs of the existing three-storied building were carried out; six old one-storied wooden buildings were demolished and four two-storied sleeping chambers from a wooden log structure were built, which are equipped with new furniture, technological equipment … The cost of the work totalled 70.5 million hryvnia. Financing of the work was carried out at the expense of a subvention of the State budget — 10 million UAH, and at the expense of the means of the city budget of Odessa — 60.45 million UAH”.

In connection with the tragedy Ukrainians try to understand how the result of the “reconstruction of a fantastic camp” was adopted and approved. There is the hypothesis that for the arrival of the distinguished guest the opening of the updated “Viktoriya” children’s camp was “adjusted”, and that eyes were closed to checking the compliance of the updated camp with the necessary standards. As of this moment words of support and condolences are written for the parents of the perished children.

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The governor of Odessa region Maksim Stepanov declared two-days of mourning in the region in connection with the tragic deaths of children.

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