People story


Story 24: Yevheniia

10-year-old Yevheniia lived with her mother in Kupyansk in Kharkiv region. The city was occupied since the first days of Russia’s full-scale war, but the family didn’t want to leave their home. They stayed, until in early September, collaborators proposed Yevheniia’s mother, Iryna, to send the girl with other kinds to a camp. At first, the girl’s mother didn’t want that, but collaborators eventually manipulated and brainwashed Iryna to receive her agreement.

Yevheniia was sent to a camp in Anapa, Russia. She was supposed to be there only for three weeks, but at that time the AFU began a counteroffensive in Kharkiv region. Iryna lost any contact with the people who took her daughter to a camp, and she understood that it was a kidnapping. Russians stole children just right before the AFU counteroffensive.

After Kharkiv region was fully de-occupied, 7 families whose children were taken to that Russian camp contacted with a volunteer initiative Save Ukraine. Save Ukraine funded the parents’ trip to Russia and helped to take the children back to Ukraine. After a week and thousands of kilometres on the road, Iryna reunited with her daughter.

10-year-old Yevheniia recalls that in the camp, the Ukrainian children were brainwashed constantly. Russian said that Kharkiv was forever a part of Russia. They also intentionally lied about Kharkiv’s de-occupation. After being returned to Ukraine, Yevheniia is happy to be with her mother again. But in the camp, she says, there were 60 more Ukrainian children left. And across Russia, there are hundreds of camps and similar facilities with forcibly deported Ukrainians.


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