Russia Stealing Ukrainian Children

Yevhen Mezhevyi with his children

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.

Adoption-Related Complex Trauma

Also called Cumulative Trauma – The research is definitive. Adopted kids are not only traumatized by the original separation from their parents, they may also have been traumatized by the events that led to them being put up for adoption. In addition to that, foster care itself is considered an adverse childhood experience.

I recently wrote a blog titled “It’s Simply NOT the Same.” Though the traumas may originate similarly, the outcomes are not the same because just like any other person, no two adoptees are exactly alike. That should not prevent any of us from trying to understand that adoptees carry wounds, even if the adoptee is unaware that the wounds are deep within them.

It is not uncommon for an adopted person and/or the adoptive family to seek mental health services due to the effect of the adoptee experiencing traumatic events. Unfortunately, for psychology and psychiatry clinicians, adoption related training is rare. In my all things adoption group, the advice is often to seek out an adoption competent therapist for good reason.

“What does an adopted baby know ? She knows her mother, she knows her loss, sadness and hurt, she knows that those who hold her today may be gone tomorrow and that she will be the only one left to pick up the pieces that no one seems to think are broken.”
~ Karl Stenske, 2012

The reasons a child is put up for adoption or relinquished are many – an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy, often compounded or driven by a lack of financial resources (poverty) or no familial support to care for a child. Becoming a single parent may simply seem too daunting to an unwed expectant mother. Sadly, for some, a chronic/terminal illness or certain diseases may lead the mother to believe she cannot provide proper care for her baby. Certainly, prolonged substance addiction and/or severe mental health issues (which may be related to addiction) can cause parental rights to be forcefully terminated by child welfare authorities. Adoptees who come out of the child welfare system (legal termination of parental rights by a court of law) cannot legally be returned to their birth families due to safety or other reasons that are considered serious.

Adoption is not always a success. Disruptions and dissolutions do sometimes occur.

Disruptions can happen after the adoption has been finalized when the adoptive parents then experience difficulties with their adopted child. The adoptive parents may have difficulty finding support and the resources they require to deal with the issues that come up.

Risk factors leading to a higher rate of disruptions are: older age when adopted, existing emotional and behavioral issues, having a strong attachment to their birth mother, having been a victim of pre-adoption sexual abuse, suffering from a lack of social support from relatives causing the adoption to occur, unrealistic expectations surrounding the adoption and the child on the part of hopeful adoptive parents, and a lack of adequate preparation and ongoing support for the adoptive family prior to and after the placement.

A devastating occurrence is a dissolution or breakdown. This applies to an adoption in which the legal relationship between the adoptive parents and the adoptive child is severed, either voluntary or involuntarily. Usually this will result in the entry or re-entry of the child into the foster care system, or less commonly a second chance adoption, or even the private transfer of the child from the adoptive parents to a non-vetted receiving parent.

Adoption has been subject to both positive and negative assumptions related to the practice and this is of no surprise to anyone who has studied the practice of adoption for a period of time.

There are 6 main assumptions about the practice of adoption –

[1] Adoption is a joyous event for all involved – known as the Unicorns and Rainbows Fantasy in adoption centric communities; [2] adoption parallels genetic birth experience and a biological family life – which close observation and mixed families (who have both biological and adopted children often belie); [3] once adopted, all of the child’s problems disappear and there will be no additional challenges – rarely true – and often attachment or bonding fail to occur; [4] creating a family through adoption is “false,” only biological families are “real” – this goes too far in making a case because many adults create chosen families – the truth is as regards children, family is those persons we grow up with – believing we are related to them – in my case, both of my parents were adopted and all of my “relations” growing up were non-genetic and non-biological but I have a life history with them and continue to have contact with aunts, an uncle and cousins I obtained through my parents’ adoptions; [5] the adoptive life is better than the biological life the child had or would have had – never a known assumption – more accurately, the adoptee’s life is different than that child would have had, if they had not been adopted; and, [6] closed adoptions are in the best interest of the child – this one was promoted with the intention of shielding adoptive parents from original parents who regretted the surrender, from the child who might yearn for their original family and often in some cases to shield a person operating unscrupulously, such as the baby thief Georgia Tann who sold ill-gotten children. Popular media has reinforced both the positive and the negative messages about adoption and many myths and stereotypes regarding adoptive families and birth parents are believed in society as a whole.

The term “adoption-related complex trauma” is rarely used in discussing symptoms and behaviors. It is more common to see terms such as “developmental trauma” or “complex trauma” to describe the psychological effects found within the adopted population.

The terms complex trauma and complex post-traumatic stress disorder have been used to describe the experience of multiple and/or chronic and prolonged, developmentally adverse traumatic events, most often of an personal nature such as sexual, physical, verbal abuse or of a societal nature such as war or community violence. These exposures often have occurred within the child’s caregiving environment and may include physical, emotional and/or other forms of neglect and maltreatment that begin early in childhood. In the case of infant adoptions, the trauma is non-verbal but stored in the body of that baby – not conscious but recorded.

Some of this content has been sourced from a long dissertation titled Treatment Considerations For Adoption-related Complex Trauma. Anyone interested is encouraged to read more at the link.