Story 4: Volodymyr
Before Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022, a middle-aged Volodymyr was the Director of the “Center for Social and Psychological Rehabilitation of Children” in Kherson. In the first month of the invasion, his facility took care of 50 orphans, aged from 4 to 15.
Rockets and shells regularly flew over the orphanage. The kids could walk in the courtyard only for 15 minutes per day. And when Russian troops were based in the town, Volodymyr told kids to stay in the building. Several times, the orphanage teachers even had to hide all the children. Occupants were hunting the children to deport them to Russia.
Volodymyr guarded the orphans for months until October 19, 2022. On that day, Russian soldiers came to the orphanage. The kids were hidden, so occupants couldn’t find them and only took away their documents. Staying in the orphanage was dangerous. Volodymyr moved the children to a church building for better protection. They had to sleep on mattresses on the floor to survive. A couple of days later, in October, when the Ukrainian Armed Forced actively liberated Kherson, Russian soldiers found the orphans and took them away. The children were deported first to the occupied Crimea and then to Anapa, Russia.
After long negotiations and with great efforts of the Ukrainian authorities, Russia return the children through Georgia. The Embassy of Ukraine took the abducted orphans back to Ukraine in a safe zone.
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