“The way home”: The return to the territory of free Ukraine of 9-year-old Nadiika and her 14-year-old brother Mykhailo
9-year-old Nadia and her brother 14-yeat-old Mykhailo, finally returned to their parents after 19 months of separation. The Ministry of Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Child Rights Network helped to take the children out of the occupied part of the Kherson region. The highlight of this return was the fact that the mother’s friend agreed to accompany her on a trip to pick up the children at her own expense – she sacrificed her own safety for the sake of another person.
On the eve of a full-scale invasion, the children went to visit their grandparents in a village in the Kherson region, which was quickly occupied by the Russian aggressor. The path to the territory controlled by the Ukrainian government was cut off.
Fortunately, Nadiyka and Mykhailo managed to avoid studying in a local school with a Russian program: they studied remotely in Ukrainian. After school, they helped their grandparents in the household. But all the time they really wanted to go to mom and dad.
However, elderly people loyal to Russia initially did not want to give their grandchildren to their parents. The generations argued strongly among themselves. And the children found themselves under double stress: in the occupation and without their closest people nearby.
Nadia and Mykhailo’s parents searched for a long time for someone who could help them bring their children home. A real opportunity appeared only at the beginning of September of this year, when dad turned to the Ministry of Reintegration, and the ministry, in turn, involved the “Ukrainian Network for Children’s Rights” (UMPD).
“Often, people who contact us or any organization that takes children out of the Russian Federation or the temporarily occupied territories (TOT) believe that their child will be brought to them. Then a big problem arises – they need to realize that it is their personal responsibility to return their child or children,” says Oleksandra, a specialist in social work of the “Way Home” project, which is implemented by UMPD.
The mother of Nadiya and Mykhailo was very afraid to pick them up. And our specialists had to prepare her, convince her that they will do everything to make the path as safe as possible, that they will find volunteers who will guide her along this path.
At the same time, the woman asked that her friend go with her, at her own expense. Mom was lucky: a person was ready to sacrifice his safety and money for the sake of another person and his children.
Meanwhile, the necessary documents for the trip were being prepared. At the last moment, it turned out that the mother and her friend did not have foreign passports. We thank the State Migration Service for their quick production.
It was also possible to agree with the volunteers about escorting. They met the women in Warsaw, and the long journey to the village in the Kherson region began.
What was the surprise of the organizers of the return when they found out that the mother of Nadiika and Mykhailo, having reached the children, decided to visit relatives with whom she had quarreled for so long and who lived under occupation! Although, on the other hand, people needed to rest after a long journey.
The women and their children went back just as the situation at the borders worsened and they started keeping people at the checkpoint for three days at a time. Fortunately, they crossed the border quickly enough. Other volunteers met them on their native land.
The next day, Nadiyka and Mykhailo were already at home with their parents.
The Way Home project is aimed at finding and returning children displaced to Russia or the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, as well as reuniting families whose children are without parents in the occupation. The project is implemented by the Ukrainian Child Rights Network in partnership with the international humanitarian organization Save the Children in Ukraine.
Our other partners are: Ministry of Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine, EDUKIDS Charitable Foundation, Media Initiative for Human Rights.
You can join the “WAY HOME” project as well. Click on the SUPPORT US button and make a contribution to the return of children, as it requires considerable resources.
The materials developed within the project do not necessarily reflect the official position of Save the Children.