'Words don't fill the hole in my heart'

St.-Sgt. Pavel Slutsker, killed by Gaza infiltrators, was "Einstein of the class."

pavel slotsker zl 298.88 (photo credit: IDF)
pavel slotsker zl 298.88
(photo credit: IDF)
Alexandra Vinohurov was in a cafe buying cigarettes when she heard on the news that her boyfriend, St.-Sgt. Pavel Slutsker, 20, was one of the two soldiers killed by Palestinian gunmen in Gaza on Sunday. "I didn't believe it. My friends came to pick me up," she told The Jerusalem Post as she sat on the sofa in the Dimona home of Pavel's parents following his funeral on Monday in that city. She whispered as she recalled that moment, as if talking out loud were too painful. She held the hand of their mutual friend, Danny Egen, who sat next to her wearing his army uniform. Alexandra said that in their last conversation Pavel told her he was heading out on what he termed "a routine mission." "I told him, 'You're lying,'" she recalled. He admitted she was right and added that he didn't want to worry her. "I told him to be careful. He promised he would," she said. She paused and then added, "You can't always keep your promises." Alexandra, who is 18, first met Pavel seven months ago at a friend's home. He came up to her and introduced himself. "We sat and talked the whole night. He was the kind of person who understood things from half a word," she said. She felt an immediate sense of connection that grew with each meeting, she said. "Each time, he touched my heart," she said. "He was a good, intelligent person, who had many friends and who was easy to be around," she added. She recalled how, when he had been on a break from the army last Monday, they had gone to the beach along with Egen. "We sat on the shore laughing and drinking beer," she recalled. "[Pavel] went into the water even though it was so cold neither Danny nor I wanted to follow." Egen said he never thought it was to be their last outing. He heard that Pavel's tank had been attacked while he himself was on his army base. In what was a morning of seesaw emotions, he feared first for his brother, whom he believed was serving in the area. Egen said he calmed down when his brother answered his cell phone. "I didn't know [Pavel] was there, I wasn't even thinking of him," said Egen. Then he heard that one of the dead soldiers was from Dimona, and he feared that it could be Pavel. After the funeral, friends and family members filled the small apartment in the corner of a large housing complex. As they sat in the pink living room filled with books and nice china, they described a young man who excelled in school and who dreamed of becoming a doctor. "I was proud to be his friend," Egen said. One woman held up a page from Pavel's high school yearbook to show that his friends had referred to him as the "Einstein of the class." Pointing to a sketch of Pavel sitting on a bench reading, she said that he had always loved books. Hanging against the wall was a large-size photograph of a smiling, uniformed, blond-haired Pavel who immigrated from Russia in 1991 with his parents and older brother Victor. Pavel's mother Lidya told the Post she had no special sense Sunday morning that something had happened until she received a call from the army informing her that her son had been killed along with Lt. Hanan Barak, 21, of neighboring Arad. Barak was buried in his home city on Sunday night. Pavel and Barak were two of four soldiers who served in the tank that Palestinian gunmen attacked in a pre-dawn raid at an IDF outpost at Kerem Shalom on the Gaza border. A third soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, was kidnapped and the fourth is recovering from a concussion and inhalation burns in Soroka Hospital in Beersheba. The hospital said on Monday night that his condition was "moderate." On Sunday Lidya told the media that she had many questions regarding the circumstances of Pavel's death. She had no interest in repeating her statements on Monday and instead said that the army had been very supportive since her son's death. Among those who came to visit the Slutsker home was a soldier from Pavel's unit who told her in Russian what he had witnessed from the attack. Lidya and her husband Yvgeni said they preferred to hear from others about their son. "It hurts too much to talk," said Yvgeni. "He was the joy of my life. He was a good son. He loved his mother and loved his family," Yvgeni told the Post. "He was a good friend to all at home and in the army." Then, putting his hand on his chest, he added, "but what do these words matter? They don't fill the hole in my heart."