Story 6: Yevhen
Yevhen, a middle-aged man, lived in Mariupol with his three kids, a son named Matvii and two younger daughters. After Russia’s full-scale invasion began, the family had to hide in bomb shelters. In April, Russian occupiers found their hiding. They gave people only 30 minutes to prepare for the forcible deportation, which they called “evacuation”.
Then, Yevhen’s family was brought to Bezymenne village, one of the main filtration centers in the occupied Donetsk region. There, the children were taken from their father, and he himself was imprisoned without a reason. Neither the children nor Yevhen knew about each other’s location.
After 45 days in prison, Yevhen was released on May 26, 2022. At that moment, his children were already deported to the Polyany Boarding House, Moscow region. “There were 31 children in the group. Some came directly from Mariupol, some from orphanages, and some from the same hospital we were in,” Matvii, Yevhen’s son, recalled. From time to time, the people in Polyana Boarding House allowed the boy, who was the aldest of Yevhen’s deported children, to call his father.
The children were supposed to conclude their stay in June 2022, at which point they were planned to return to Donetsk for Yevhen to retrieve them. But on June 16, the father received a warning call from his son. “Matvii called me and almost shouted, ‘Dad, you have five days to come and pick us up, or we will be adopted!”
Russian social workers lied to the children that Yevhen joined the occupant’s army. Their initial plan was to separate the children from the parent and send them to a foster home or orphanage. Yevhen had to go to Russia immediately — it was the only chance to bring the kids back until they hadn’t been divided.
On June 19 the man managed to arrive in Moscow and found the boarding house his kids were put in. After 2 months of separation, fear, lies and uncertainty, Yevhen finally reunited with his children. To leave the boarding house, the boy had to compose a statement asking Russians to hand him and his sisters over to their father. They left Russia through the border with Latvia.
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