People story


Story 22: Serhii

Serhii, a 16-year-old, lived near Mariupol and was studying car mechanics at a local college. Just prior to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, he lost his parents and was placed in an orphanage. During the early days of the invasion, Russian forces occupied his city and took the children from the orphanage hostage, transporting them to Donetsk city. After a brief interrogation, Serhii and the other orphans were forcibly deported to Russia.


Upon arrival in the aggressor’s territory, Russia’s Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, unlawfully gave Serhii away for adoption. He was essentially abducted from Ukraine, his Ukrainian passport was confiscated, and he was forced to adopt Russian documents. Subsequently, a Russian family adopted him. Serhii had minimal interaction with his new “relatives.” Although he was not treated cruelly in the new “family,” his thoughts were consumed by a strong desire to return to Ukraine. The foster family enrolled him in a Russian college, where he continued his studies in car mechanics.


After spending ten months in Russia, Serhii managed to contact a Ukrainian governmental chatbot and sought assistance to return to Ukraine. The process details are confidential, but the boy was returned to Ukraine in December 2022.


Following the traumatic experiences and horrors he endured during his forced deportation to Russia, Serhii continues to receive psychological treatment.