People story


Story 15: Yevheniia

When the Russians occupied Kherson, they began forcibly deporting children from the region to Russia. Ten-year-old Yevheniia and her mother lived in Kupiansk, a city in the Kharkiv region, which had fallen under Russia’s temporary occupation since the onset of the full-scale invasion. Yevheniia, a sixth-grader, had her schooling disrupted by the Russian occupation forces. In September, as the Ukrainian Armed Forces advanced towards Kupiansk, the Russians devised a plan to forcibly remove children from the city. They lured children away under the guise of a vacation in Anapa, Russia, with no intention of returning them to their parents. Through manipulation and coercion, they persuaded parents like Iryna, Yevheniia’s mother, to send their children away, presenting it as an “obligatory option.”


Unaware of the advancing Ukrainian forces, Iryna faced a dilemma when a collaborating teacher proposed this ‘option.’ Reluctantly, she allowed her 10-year-old daughter to go on what she believed was a three-week vacation, only to later discover that it was a deceptive act of deportation.


After three weeks, Iryna anxiously awaited her child’s return to Kharkiv. However, her hope diminished as she realized that the Russians had no intention of reuniting her with Yevheniia. Her only option was to travel to Russia herself to retrieve her daughter.


With the help of volunteers, Iryna located the boarding school in Anapa. After a harrowing experience navigating Russian bureaucracy, she finally reunited with her daughter. Together, they returned to Ukraine. Iryna became the sole parent who had successfully retrieved her child from the boarding school, which had turned into a center for forced deportation. Unfortunately, 60 other children remained in Russia, awaiting their return home.


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