I learned about this organization LINK>Kidsave and their FlatSasha Project today, thanks to an article in The Guardian LINK>Ukrainian children orphaned by war ‘need a tremendous amount of help’.
Last February 24th marked one year since Russia invaded Ukraine. Since the war began, Kidsave Ukraine has been working tirelessly to rescue those in danger, get them to safety and provide them with urgent humanitarian aid. When the harsh winter set in, the most vulnerable members of society – Ukrainian orphans – were having to navigate these frightening and unstable times without families to support and comfort them.
Flat Sasha represents a 12-year-old orphan displaced from their home in Mykolaiv due to the war, like so many other children in the country. Flat Sasha can be printed out, colored in and decorated. Once you’ve created your Flat Sasha, we encourage you to hang them up in your school, office, home, car, or bring them along with you on a brand new adventure. LINK>Download FlatSasha. There is both a male and a female version.
Kidsave will be training volunteers and staff on trauma therapy as part of their own efforts to rebuild Ukraine. Donations to the organization will aid the construction of a center in Ukraine aimed at providing mentorship, therapy and other emotional support services to children trying to grow up within a conflict experience.
The organization had already been working in Ukraine for six years – BEFORE the invasion by Russian forces on February 24 2022 made a bad situation worse. It has been estimated that there were more than 105,000 children across 700 orphanages, boarding schools and other institutions in Ukraine when the war started there – that’s more than 1% of the nation’s underage population and Europe’s highest rate of youth institutionalization. Numbers since then are harder to track as children have been evacuated and moved out of Ukraine’s institutionalized care for safety reasons. But there’s reason to think things have gotten only harder for Ukraine’s orphans. Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Andriy Kostin, has said his teams have documented more than 14,000 instances of Ukrainian children being forced into adoption in Russia since the invasion. Ukraine has made it a clear priority to keep any of its children who are in need of adoption in the country as opposed to sending them abroad.
From LINK>The Guardian – At least 6,000 children from Ukraine have attended Russian camps aimed at re-education in the last year, with “several hundred” held there for weeks or months beyond their scheduled return date, Russia has also unnecessarily expedited the adoption and fostering of children from Ukraine in what could constitute a war crime. Children as young as four months living in the occupied areas have been taken to 43 camps across Russia, including in Moscow-annexed Crimea and Siberia, for “pro-Russia patriotic and military-related education.”
In at least two of the camps, the children’s return date was delayed by weeks, while at two other camps, the return of some children was postponed indefinitely. Russia’s effort has been to provide a pro-Moscow viewpoint to children through school curricula as well as through field trips to patriotic sites and talks given by veterans.
Videos published from the camps by the occupying regional authorities show children in the camps singing the Russian national anthem and carrying the Russian flag. In separate videos, teachers, employed to teach the children, talk about the need to correct their understanding of Russian and Soviet history. Children were also given training in firearms even though here was no evidence they were being sent back to fight.
Russia is seeking to deny and suppress Ukraine’s identity, history, and culture. Russia has systematically used a government-wide effort to permanently relocate thousands of Ukrainian children to areas under Russian government control via a network of 43 camps and other facilities. In many cases, Russia purported to temporarily evacuate children from Ukraine under the guise of a free summer camp, only to later refuse to return the children and to cut off all contact with their families.
Maria Lvova-Belova, the presidential commissioner for children’s rights in Russia, is quoted as saying that 350 children had been adopted by Russian families and that more than 1,000 were awaiting adoption. The number of children sent to the camps is “likely significantly higher” than the 6,000 confirmed. Ukraine’s government recently claimed that more than 14,700 children had been deported to Russia.
An adoption community friend mentioned that this was a song that always made her cry. I had not heard it before. I’m pretty certain a song by REM was part of my wedding back in 1988 (not this song, of course). I suspect many of the people who read this blog do feel sad, cry, have deep soul hurt, at least sometimes. So I’m making this my Saturday morning blog, just because.
We just spent 3 days without full power (though we do have a gas powered generator, it is NOT enough to power our furnace – we used a space heater and sleeping bags at night). The noise and sustained cold (though the lowest household temperature was 63, the cold seeped into everything in the house) shattered my nerves and happily took 3 lbs off me due to shivering. There was a moment on Thursday when everything was just so wrong but I had to go on. I know we were fortunate to have that much normalcy, yet – it was anything but normal. Our power was restored at 11:35am on Friday. I have even more compassion and empathy for the people of Ukraine today who do not even have what we had and have terror piled on top of the suffering, never knowing when the next missile will strike where they are.
When your day is long And the night, the night is yours alone When you’re sure you’ve had enough Of this life, well hang on
Don’t let yourself go ‘Cause everybody cries Everybody hurts sometimes
Sometimes everything is wrong Now it’s time to sing along
When your day is night alone (hold on, hold on) If you feel like letting go (hold on) If you think you’ve had too much Of this life, well hang on
‘Cause everybody hurts Take comfort in your friends Everybody hurts
Don’t throw your hand, oh no Don’t throw your hand If you feel like you’re alone No, no, no, you are not alone
If you’re on your own in this life The days and nights are long When you think you’ve had too much Of this life to hang on
Well, everybody hurts sometimes Everybody cries Everybody hurts, sometimes
And everybody hurts sometimes So hold on, hold on Hold on, hold on, hold on Hold on, hold on, hold on
Back in the 1970s, after a military coup in Argentina, at least 500 newborns were taken from their parents while in captivity and given to military couples to raise as their own. Today, Russia is accused of doing something similar with children taken from Ukraine. Jorge Videla, was known as the “Hitler of the Pampa,” after the 1976 coup. Two years ago, the Argentinian government sent hundreds of DNA testing kits to its consulates around the world in an effort to put names to unidentified victims and to find the children of the disappeared, known as desaparecidos. Many of these children are still living today but unaware of their true identity. The Abuelas de Playa de Mayo is a human rights organization whose mission is to find the children who were illegally adopted during those years. (I wrote about these Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo in a blog some time ago.)
One of those children is now a 45-year-old banker living in London. His name is Javier Penino Viñas, and his biological parents, Cecilia Viñas and Hugo Penino, were abducted in 1977. Javier was illegally adopted by Jorge Vildoza (a high-ranking Argentinian navy officer) and his wife, Ana María Grimaldos. When asked to appear in court, Vildoza fled the country in a panic, taking the child with him. “After the Videla regime, there was a democratic transition, and in that period the trials against the military began,” says Javier. “My adoptive father was quite high up in the navy, and the family knew that the transition to democracy was starting to cause problems for anyone in the military. That’s when we moved to Paraguay and ended up changing our identities.”
Some experts say that behind the illegal military adoptions was a quasi-Catholic belief that, while the parents of the children were irredeemable sinners who deserved to die, killing their newborn children would be a sin. However, the Argentinian historian Fabricio Laino believes there was a more cynical logic at work. “The military were convinced they could ‘save’ and ‘reform’ these children. They wanted to redeem them from families who, according to them, would surely have raised them in a subversive environment.”
Baltasar Garzón is a former Spanish judge and human rights activist. He believes that “The appropriation of children, as well as rape, has always been aimed at humiliating and subduing the enemy. Taking away the enemy’s child was a bargaining chip.” They change a person’s life by taking them out of their environment and away from their biological family. The method used in Argentina was especially perverse. A pregnant woman was held in captivity until she gave birth. Then her baby was taken away from her. After torturing her, she was killed and effectively made to disappear.
Therefore for decades, hundreds of children have been raised by the same people who were responsible for the torture and death of their biological parents. After the return to democracy, members of the military fled with their adoptive families – often to countries where extradition was prohibited.
It could be that the taking of Ukrainian children is due to a similar intention by Putin. To, in effect, change these children’s lives by taking them out of their environment and away from their biological family. Then placing them with a Russian family on Russian soil. Time will tell the true extent of such efforts and hopefully reveal the number of children affected. War is such a hideous exercise. My wish is that these children ultimately find their way back to family in Ukraine.
This has troubled me for some time. Today, I learned about this story in Vanity Fair. I have been troubled about what Russia is doing with the people of Ukraine for some time. Here’s the story LINK> “Dad, You Have to Come—Or We Will Be Adopted!”: One Ukrainian Family’s Harrowing Wartime Saga. The subtitle is “Three children survived the siege of Mariupol, forced relocation, their father’s horrific detainment, and their own exile—to Russia.” by Iryna Lopatina via The Reckoning Project.
Since Yevhen Mezhevyi (39 years old) was released from the Olenivka prison camp after a lengthy filtration process, he has been intensely focused on the lives and safety of his three kids. Their story is one of many tales of family separation, loss, trauma, and, in their case, relocation to another country. Since the end of June, the family has been living in one of the rooms of a small, rented apartment in Riga Latvia.
Back on April 7 2022, Russian allied soldiers came to the bunker where the Mezhevyis’ had been sheltering. They made it sound like it was a voluntary evacuation; but in fact, the four of them, along with a group of fellow displaced Mariupol residents, were being forced from the building. There the family was separated. The children were told that her father might not return for five to seven years. The children decided to initiate their own independent search.
The DPR military asked Yevhen about alleged links to the Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian National Guard unit with roots in Mariupol. He was sent to Olenivka prison camp in eastern Ukraine. In July, an explosion in a room designated for Ukrainian POWs would killed more than 50 detainees, many of them from Azovstal, and injuring an estimated 130. By mid-May (at which point he had not seen his children for more than a month), Yevhen and other prisoners were assigned a new task. They were forced to begin preparing rooms for an estimated 2,700 people—captured members of the Ukrainian military who had left Azovstal.
In total, Yevhen Mezhevyi spent 45 days in the prison camp. On May 26, a security guard approached him and told him he was free to go. He made his way to the DOC to pick up his documents where he was told that his children’s birth certificates were the only documents missing. When he asked why, she answered, “Your children flew to the Moscow region today, five in the morning.” A week after his children’s arrival on Russian soil, they were finally allowed to receive a call from their father in Ukraine. They were relieved to be in contact with him for the first time in almost 60 days.
The children’s stay was due to end June 27, at which point they were scheduled to be brought back to Donetsk so that their father could pick them up. But then they were told he couldn’t pick them up and they would be taken to a foster home or shelter. His son said that it was better to go to an orphanage than a foster family. The son was able to call his dad and said to him “you have five days to come and pick us up, or we will be adopted!”
After receiving his son’s call, he felt he had to go to Russia immediately, find his kids, and bring them home. When he arrived where his children were being kept they asked him to tell them how everything happened, how and why the children ended up alone, and where their mother was (they were divorced and he had sole custody).
It took about half a day to do all the paperwork required for the children to be officially handed over. The Mezhevyis stayed in Moscow for a few more days with the volunteer who had hosted them. It soon became apparent that because of the fighting in Ukraine, repatriating to Mariupol was not an option. So they made plans to seek refuge for the foreseeable future in Latvia, which was taking in families displaced by the invasion. On June 22, they arrived by bus in the Latvian capital, Riga, where they have been living ever since.
Ukrainian authorities have confirmed the deportation or forced displacement of more than 7,000 children—5,100 of whose names have been submitted to international agencies in hopes that their representatives can begin to locate them in the Russian Federation or in temporarily occupied parts of Ukraine. Russian officials, meanwhile, have made reference to as many 2.8 million Ukrainian citizens, including over 440,000 children that have been transported to the Russian Federation, though the government has not provided certified lists with the names of the minors or details about their families and hometowns.
I am reading the book, Exterminate All The Brutes by Sven Lindqvist, which is not at all what I expected. In yesterday’s reading I found linked two men with books set in the Congo. Henry Morton Stanley, who wrote In Darkest Africa, published in 1890 and Joseph Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness, published in 1899. I read that both grew up motherless, both had been adopted by benevolent father figures and that both ran away to sea, changed their name, home country and identity. This I thought this a worth topic for my Missing Mom blog. So some historical stuff today.
Henry Stanley was born in 1841 as John Rowlands in Denbigh, Denbighshire, Wales. His mother Elizabeth Parry was 18 years old at the time of his birth. She abandoned him as a very young baby and cut off all communication. Stanley never knew his father, who died within a few weeks of his birth. There is some doubt as to his true parentage. As his parents were unmarried, his birth certificate describes him as a bastard. His baptism registry indicated that he was the bastard son of John Rowland of Llys Llanrhaidr and Elizabeth Parry of Castle. The stigma of illegitimacy weighed heavily upon him all his life.
The boy John was given his father’s surname of Rowlands and brought up by his grandfather Moses Parry, a once-prosperous butcher who was living in reduced circumstances. He cared for the boy until he died, when John was five. Rowlands stayed with families of cousins and nieces for a short time, but he was eventually sent to the St Asaph Union Workhouse for the Poor. The overcrowding and lack of supervision resulted in his being frequently abused by older boys. Historian Robert Aldrich has alleged that the headmaster of the workhouse raped or sexually assaulted Rowlands, and that the older Rowlands was “incontrovertibly bisexual”. When Rowlands was ten, his mother and two half-siblings stayed for a short while in this workhouse, but he did not recognize them until the headmaster told him who they were.
Rowlands emigrated to the United States in 1859 at age 18. He disembarked at New Orleans and by his own account became friends by accident with Henry Hope Stanley, a wealthy trader. He saw Stanley sitting on a chair outside his store and asked him if he had any job openings. He did so in the British style: “Do you need a boy, sir?” The childless man had indeed been wishing he had a son, and the inquiry led to a job and a close relationship between them. Out of admiration, John took Stanley’s name. Later, he wrote that his adoptive parent died two years after their meeting, but in fact the elder Stanley did not die until 1878. This and other discrepancies in Stanley’s own autobiography lead some to argue that no adoption took place.
Stanley reluctantly joined the American Civil War, first enrolling in the Confederate States Army’s 6th Arkansas Infantry Regiment and fighting in the Battle of Shiloh in 1862. After being taken prisoner at Shiloh, he was recruited at Camp Douglas Illinois by its commander Colonel James A Mulligan as a “Galvanized Yankee.” He joined the Union Army on June 4 1862 but was discharged 18 days later because of severe illness. After recovering, he served on several merchant ships before joining the US Navy in July 1864. He became a record keeper on board the USS Minnesota, and participated in the First Battle of Fort Fisher and the Second Battle of Fort Fisher, which led him into freelance journalism. Stanley and a junior colleague jumped ship on 10 February 1865 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in search of greater adventures. Stanley may have been the only man to serve in all three of the Confederate Army, the Union Army, and the Union Navy. He is remembered for the line – “Dr Livingstone, I Presume ?” Henry Morton Stanley wrote In Darkest Africa published in 1890. This is how his story intersects with the next one.
Joseph Conrad born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in 1857 in Berdychiv Ukraine. His family called him “Konrad”, rather than “Józef”. His father was arrested and imprisoned in Pavilion X of the Warsaw Citadel. Conrad would write: “[I]n the courtyard of this Citadel—characteristically for our nation—my childhood memories begin.”
His father’s sentence was commuted, and the family was sent to Chernihiv in northeast Ukraine, where conditions were much better. However in 1865 his mother died of tuberculosis. His father also died of tuberculosis in 1869 leaving Conrad orphaned at the age of 11. The young Conrad was placed in the care of his mother’s brother.
Since he showed little inclination to study, it was essential that he learn a trade; his uncle thought he could work as a sailor-cum-businessman, who would combine maritime skills with commercial activities. In the autumn of 1871, thirteen-year-old Conrad announced his intention to become a sailor. At the age of 15, he was sent to a boarding house for orphan boys. The owner’s daughter recalled: “He stayed with us ten months… Intellectually he was extremely advanced but [he] disliked school routine, which he found tiring and dull; he used to say… he… planned to become a great writer…. He disliked all restrictions. At home, at school, or in the living room he would sprawl unceremoniously.”
“Living away from one’s natural environment—family, friends, social group, language—even if it results from a conscious decision, usually gives rise to… internal tensions, because it tends to make people less sure of themselves, more vulnerable, less certain of their… position and… value… ” ~ Zdzisław Najder
After nearly four years in France and on French ships, Conrad joined the British merchant marine, enlisting in April 1878. His book Heart of Darkness was published in 1899 and like Stanley’s account is set in the Congo. To Conrad’s credit, his contains bitter reflections on colonialism. Conrad regarded the formation of a representative government in Russia as unfeasible and foresaw a transition from autocracy to dictatorship. Conrad’s distrust of democracy sprang from his doubts whether the propagation of democracy as an aim in itself could solve any problems. He thought that, in view of the weakness of human nature and of the “criminal” character of society, democracy offered boundless opportunities for demagogues and charlatans.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry has appealed to the United Nations to facilitate the return of Ukrainian children who have been “illegally deported” to Russia.
In a statement, the ministry said Russia had engaged in the “illegal and forced displacement” of Ukrainian children, “among them orphans, children deprived of parental care, as well as children whose parents died as a result of Russia’s military aggression” across Ukraine’s borders to Russia.
The statement reads:
In violation of international humanitarian law and basic standards of humanness, Russia is engaged in state-organized kidnapping of children and destruction of the future of the Ukrainian nation.
Such actions of the Russian occupiers can be qualified as kidnapping and require a decisive reaction from the international community, primarily from the relevant international organizations.
Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russian forces of forcibly deporting thousands of children from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine since the war began.
Earlier this month, two individuals said they and other women and children were forcibly transported to Russian territory from the besieged city of Mariupol in March. The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, has denied these accusations, claiming “such reports are lies”.
~ source The Guardian reporting
Because I am generally against adoption in most cases, and even though I know that the US has no high moral ground, as I am aware that children arriving unaccompanied at the US border were taken in and most likely, too many adopted by families that were total strangers to them, I am still concerned that this same unfortunate situation is also happening to Ukrainian children. I know the circumstances are not equal but the outcomes are equally concerning.
It’s hard to know what to say about the most recent news coming out of Ukraine. The Russian occupiers in the eastern part of the country appear to be moving people from there into Russia. The latest was that 2,389 children have been illegally removed from Donetsk and Luhanks oblasts to Russia. This follows news from yesterday of several thousand Mariupol residents having been deported to Russia.
It has been reported that after processing at “filtration camps”, some had been transported to the Russian city of Taganrog, about 60 miles (100km) from Mariupol, and from there sent by rail “to various economically depressed cities in Russia.” Ukraine’s human rights spokesperson, Lyudmyla Denisova, said Ukrainian citizens had been “issued papers that require them to be in a certain city. They have no right to leave it for at least two years with the obligation to work at the specified place of work. The fate of others remains unknown.”
Russian news agencies have reported that hundreds of people, that Moscow calls refugees, have been taken by bus from Mariupol to Russia. Denisova said the “abductions and forced displacements” violated the Geneva and European human rights conventions and called on the international community to “respond … and increase sanctions against the terrorist state of the Russian Federation”.
In a time of war, it is difficult to know what is true or not. I am reminded of how German Nazi’s removed Jews to concentration camps during WWII. Whether fate will be kinder to these people remains to be seen. I can only imagine what a difficult trade-off it is between constant bombardments, hiding in shelters without food, water and heat, and the relative “safety” of being removed as the onslaught continues.
Regardless, the developments cause a deep concern in my own heart.
She had traveled from Ukraine to the rolling hills and cornfields of Indiana, only to wind up on her own in a strange city. When police checked in with the girl in September 2014, it had been more than a year since she had seen or heard from her adoptive parents, who had changed her age from 11 to 22 on official documents and rented her an apartment before moving to Canada and leaving her behind.
This is strange enough but the story gets stranger from there.
The couple who abandoned the girl disagree about whether she actually was a child — or an adult pretending to be one. The mother, now divorced from her husband, claims that the adoption was a “scam” and that the girl was a diagnosed psychopath and sociopath, who had been an adult the entire time they knew her.
Her ex-husband tells a different story. As far as he was concerned, police said, the girl was a minor when they switched her age and left her behind in Lafayette Indiana. He also told detectives that his wife had counseled the girl to tell people that she was 22 if questioned, and to explain that she just looked young.
The family had adopted the disabled girl from Ukraine in 2010 and she came to live with them and their three sons in their cozy suburban home north of Indianapolis. The girl would later tell detectives that a different adoptive family had initially brought her to the United States in 2008. Though no details are provided in the police affidavit, there were apparently complications, because the couple in this story adopted her two years later.
The girl’s actual age was difficult to establish from the beginning. In an Indiana probate court, they adoptive parents legally changed their daughter’s age from 11 to 22 and provided a letter that purportedly came from a doctor who said that the date on the girl’s birth certificate was “clearly inaccurate,” since she had both the teeth and the secondary sex characteristics of a grown adult.
The girl had been committed to a psychiatric hospital and diagnosed with sociopathic personality disorder in 2012, and, around that time, started to admit that she was over 18. Determining her true age was difficult, the letter states, because records provided by Ukrainian officials were “grossly incomplete” and her condition, spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita (dwarfism), meant that the typical assessments weren’t helpful.
When her adoptive parents rented her an apartment in downtown Lafayette Indiana, she knew no one else there. What happened next is unclear. It is said that the girl’s neighbors “took her under their wing.” In May 2014, less than a year after her adoptive parents left her alone in the apartment, she was evicted for not paying her rent.
In September 2014, the Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Office tracked down the adoptive daughter, who would have been 12 or 13 at the time. Legally, she was considered to be well into her mid-twenties. Another five years passed before her adoptive parents were finally charged with neglect.
When another couple petitioned to become her guardians in 2016, the adoptive parents filed an objection. Two years later, the new couple changed their mind about the adoption, for reasons that weren’t specified. The adoptive parent’s petition was subsequently dismissed.
Stay tuned. Authorities have hinted that there could be even more strange details to come. “This is going to end up on a TV show,” an anonymous law enforcement official remarked.