Ukraine: a mother's long wait to find her children sent to Russia
A Ukrainian mother finds her child returning from Russia, April 8, 2023 (Illustration image). © VALENTYN OGIRENKO/REUTERS
Text by: RFI Follow
Volodymyr Zelensky said on April 28, 2023 that he had requested the help of his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in the file of the return of Ukrainian children "deported" by Russia. The Ukrainian authorities estimate their number at least 20,000. Testimony of a mother who recently found her daughters after seven months in Russia.
Constantly under Russian fire, the city of Volchansk, halfway between Kharkiv and Belgorod in Russia, is an area with very restricted access for security reasons. It was therefore by phone that Iryna confided her story to Anastasia Becchio, from RFI's International service.
Last summer, during the Russian occupation, teachers offered to send her two daughters to a summer camp in the Krasnodar region, she accepted without asking too many questions. At the end of August, Ksenia and Anastasia, 10 and 11 years old, leave with a group of children: "I just thought that the children would go to rest for 24 days," recalls Iryna. At that time, no one was aware that it would be so difficult to get the children back.»
More than seven months to recover them
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian armed forces liberated the Kharkiv region and the children were not brought back as planned. Iryna is convinced that her daughters are safer in southern Russia. She is reassured by the regular phone calls she receives, but she will have to wait until April to be able to pick up her children with the help of the NGO Save Ukraine.
When we picked up the children, we travelled with children from Kherson, who were in Crimea," Iryna told RFI. They told us that they had to march in step, that they were forced to sing the Russian anthem and that they were bullied. My daughters were treated better.»
Back in her city with her daughters, Iryna thinks about going elsewhere, to an area less exposed to Russian fire. She also faces criticism from some neighbors who accuse her of collaboration for letting her children go to Russia. According to official figures, more than 360 children have been recovered.
► Read also: Accents of Europe - The impotence of Ukrainian families to recover the thousands of missing children
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- Rights of the child