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.