MH17 Families Suffer Continuing Loss and Anger | News and current affairs in Germany and around the world | DW


Family member after family member describes agony so excruciating it looks like Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was just shot down from the sky today – not July 17, 2014, when it fell apart in eastern Ukraine. For many, the years have been a totally insufficient healer.

Brave an emotional battlefield

Cécile Brouwer is one of those people. Her sister Thérèse, her brother-in-law Charles and their two children were on board the MH17. “If I tell you this is an emotional battle that still drags on today,” Brouwer says, “believe me, I underestimate him.” She describes being “inconsolable” in the face of the loss and says her marriage and other relationships have suffered, admitting that she lashes out at her own children just for calling “Mom”. She was angry, she said, to receive Christmas cards with happy messages and to see people celebrating New Year’s Eve.

Judges heard testimony from relatives of MH17 victims for three weeks

Brouwer was one of some 90 relatives of the 298 victims, mostly Dutch, to use the right granted by the Dutch legal system to speak out in court. Three weeks of presentations end on Friday, with another date in November.

“I think of them every day”

“It’s now seven years later and those emotions are less powerful,” Brouwer told the panel of judges at the Amsterdam High Security Court. “But what happened doesn’t get any less terrible. I think about them every day, all four of them, they’re still everywhere I go and wherever I am.” She explained how painful it is always to hear or read that “everything that can be said has been said” [about the case] or “get on with your life” or “bad things happen all the time”, or even “here they go again, loved ones”.

Lidwina Niewold, whose brother Tallander died in the crash at the age of 22, described how for years she suffered from fears that would previously have seemed irrational, such as moving quickly or even going shopping. “I was afraid of open spaces, explosions, attacks, terrorist attacks,” she said. One of his other brothers, Olduf, spoke of mourning not only Tallander, but all “innocent and beloved people, babies, teens, moms and dads, grannies and grandfathers – so many. of torn families, marked for life “.

Everyone is suffering

The scale of the tragedy was so massive for the country of 17.3 million people that hardly anyone remained intact, near or far. Even one of the victims’ lawyers, Peter Langstraat of the law firm Moree Gelderblom, told DW he too was surprised at how deeply affected he was. “I should be, after 30 years, maybe a tough and cynical lawyer, having seen almost everything,” he said. “But there is a thick emotional layer – very thick – when you walk into the courtroom. I had to control myself by speaking on behalf of my clients.”

But it wasn’t just the impression that the whole of Dutch society had been grieving, luckily science proved that the impact was in fact widespread and measurable. At the time of the accident, researchers were conducting a study to assess the physical impact of the events on people who did not personally witness or have no personal connection.

Dutch researcher Bertus Jeronimus, University of Groningen

Dutch researcher Bertus Jeronimus discovered that people were physically affected by the MH17 crash even though they had no connection to the victims.

Bertus Jeronimus of the University of Groningen, the principal investigator of the project, explained what the team found when analyzing data from 141 subjects who recorded their feelings three times a day for 30 days, including the July 17, 2014. Despite the MH17 crash that occurred “thousands of kilometers away, to people we don’t know,” he said, subjects reported “more negative emotions or they were sadder, had a lot less positive emotions… more headaches, more stomach aches, that kind of somatic complaints ”.

The feeling of “acute stress” lasted for about three days before subsiding. “[It’s] a fascinating example of how we are all socially connected, “Jeronimus said.” The stories and information communicated in the media – we respond to that. “He says this is not the only such finding, noting that similar studies after 9/11 even found women who lived in Sweden or elsewhere in Europe and were in no way involved in 9/11. “, showed physical effects in terms, for example, of the way their pregnancy went or those kinds of experiences. So these are really important things. “

Anguish and anger

Back in the courtroom, relatives express another source of frustration: the fact that if they are to suffer a lasting loss, the four men accused of firing what investigators believe to be a BUK missile provided by the Russia, are free to enjoy their lives. At least three of them, Russian citizens, are believed to be in Russia and the fourth, a Ukrainian citizen, has appointed defense lawyers to attend but will not appear himself. The Kremlin denies any involvement and rejects the extradition of the accused.

Lawyer for relatives of Australian victims Michael and Carol Clancy has made an angry demand. “I want each of these people – from the person who just follows orders to those who issue the orders – to be held responsible for the wreck of our lives,” she told the court. “I want to know why they thought it was a good idea to shoot and smash a commercial flight and deny doing it; I want the Russian president to stop lying and admit that the slaughter of the plane and I want to tell the Russian people what they have done. “

Russian suspects live it

Instead, as lawyer Langstraat points out, “you see pictures of these [defendants] have vodka on their boats. And again, they are suspects, so we have to wait for the conviction, but maybe they are responsible for the deaths of almost 300 people, and the attitude of the Russian Federation remains one of denial, creating its own reality, disinformation. “

MH17 investigators continue to expand their case. They have just launched their last call for help from the public, this time asking the Russians in the city suspected of being behind the Kursk missile to provide information. The mother of a victim, Vera Oreshkin, pleaded for their help in Russian.

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