People story


Story 33: Sofia

14-year-old Sofia was deported to temporarily occupied Crimea in October 2022. Despite her family disapproval, the teenager secretly fled her grandmother’s home in Kherson, seized by Russians in the first days of the full-scale invasion, for a short holiday at a children camp under the invitation from the occupants.  When the family noticed Sofia’s disappearance, she had already crossed the border.

After staying in a facility for 3 weeks instead of the promised 10 days, the girl realized that the administration did not intend to return her home whatsoever. Instead, she was forcibly deported to another camp in Anapa, Russia, alongside a group of fellow Ukrainian children. After an accompanying scoutmaster threatened to send the children to an orphanage if their parents did not pick them up by the end of the year, scared Sofia called her grandmother, asking to take her home.

Sofia and her grandmother were placed at a boarding house in Sheps, Krasnodar region of Russia. Subsequently, the girl was enrolled to a local Russian school and subjected to systematic bullying by new classmates — from being called racist names and scared her with the sounds of air alert to being filmed without a consent. Teachers turned a blind eye to bullying, aimed at Ukrainian kids, and threatened them with severe consequences for even mentioning Ukraine. After shouting out “Glory to Ukraine!”, the kids were brought for an ‘educational discussion’ with school administration, a policeman, and a psychologist, who claimed that Russia “rescued” and “sheltered” them, so it cannot be “disrespected” this way. The minors were warned that their behaviour is punishable by the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, and might cause imprisonment of their legal guardians.

Sofia was returned home by human rights initiative Save Ukraine alongside two other Ukrainian girls, after her desperate mother contacted the organization. Currently, she is residing in Odesa region of Ukraine, waiting when recently liberated Kherson becomes a safer place to live in.


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