Sydney, December 12, 2014
The vandalism of 76 graves at Sydney's Rookwood Cemetery was a 'very cruel' act, says the widow of a man whose grave was smashed.
Olga Zakroczymski's husband and parents are buried at the cemetery where vandals desecrated their graves between 9pm on Tuesday and 6am on Wednesday.
'Even dead people have no peace,' the 84-year-old widow told AAP. 'I've been crying for two days.'
'The cross has been bashed ... it's very cruel.'
Anatole Zakroczymski's headstone was broken and the cross snapped off onto the floor.
'How could they do that?' the widow said. 'I can't afford to put more monuments.'
Most of the damaged graves were on Russian and Serbian Orthodox plots.
Police have yet to identify the vandals or their motives.
'It's a senseless, mindless act,' Detective Inspector Paul Arnold told reporters in Auburn.
It was likely more than one person was involved in the incident, which happened as Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko arrived in Australia for a two-day visit.
|Most of the damaged graves were on Russian and Serbian Orthodox plots. John Koudrin (pictured right) stands beside the grave of his former Russian language teacher Anatole Zakroczymski, which was destroyed|
But Alexey Ivacheff, from the Russian Orthodox Cemetery Care committee, believed the crime was directed at the Russian community.
'Somebody with a sick mind decided to have a go at the Russians,' he said. 'This is an act of hatred.'
Rookwood Cemetery will increase security patrols throughout the night in response to the incident.
Families of the desecrated graves are being notified, said cemetery chief executive Fiona Heslop.
'It is extremely disappointing to think that such destruction could be dealt to a place that is so important and sacred to so many people within our community,' Ms Heslop said.
The vandal could be jailed for up to five years for malicious damage and six years if more than one person was involved.