People story


Story 3: Olena, mother of deported Andrii

Olena Dudnyk, born 1980.

From Izium, Kharkiv region.

Before the full-scale war worked as a nurse in Izium hospital.


Olena was a nurse in one of the remaining hospitals in Izium, a heavily bombed city in the Kharkiv region. On April 30, her mother and adopted son Andrii came to her workplace to charge phones as they lost electricity at home. Suddenly the hospital was bombarded by Russians. Olena’s mother died in the shelling and Andrii, got seriously injured. The boy would die without hospitalization. All roads to Ukraine-controlled territories were blocked by Russian soldiers who after shelling took away wounded Andrii. There Olena lost any trace of her son for a couple of weeks.

Russians refused to give Olena any information about her son. Andrii was also deprived of information about his mother. Somebody at the hospital even told him his mother died.

Losing hope, Olena received a message from friends notifying her that her son was seen in a hospital in Moscow. The woman who had been deported from the Kharkiv region to Russia was in the hospital with Andrii and posted the boy’s story. Fortunately, it became viral, so Olena got the information.

She headed to Russia. When Olena crossed the border, Russian officials tried to persuade her to take Russian citizenship saying it was the only way she could enter the country. The woman denied it and got through eventually. In Moscow, she found the exact hospital mentioned in the message. Doctors labeled her as a Nazi. Eventually, Andrii noticed Olena in the corridor as if in a miracle. After a couple of other struggles with Russian authorities, she could take Andrii away.

Volunteers helped them to pass the Russian border and to escape to Switzerland. They put Andrii in a hospital to finish his treatment from the shelling and captivity in Russia. Now the family stays abroad together after months of separation, fear, and pain.


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