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  • Writer's pictureAlexia Kalaitzi

“Dad, They Won’t Turn Us Back”

A Ukrainian father describes how he risked losing his children when they were taken to the Polyany center in Moscow after the evacuation of Mariupol

The two young daughters of the family in Mariupol before the war (photo from the family archive).

"Dad, the situation is such that they tell us that they will not take us back, they will give us to foster families or an orphanage, as long as the shelling in Donetsk lasts."

These words will forever be etched in Yevhen's memory. A former soldier, the 39-year-old man was living and working in Mariupol at the Ilyich factory when the war broke out. His wife had left him and so he was raising their three children alone: an 8-year-old and a 6-year-old daughter and 13-year-old Matvii. February 24, 2022, the day of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, found him there.

The war in Mariupol

After the first days of the war and in their attempt to protect themselves, they ended up as a family in a shelter where a total of 140 people lived. The water had already run out - three people were killed while fetching - and conditions had become desperately difficult when Yevhen heard his son say: "Dad, the army says we have to evacuate [the area]." When he went outside he saw a man who introduced himself as a soldier of the Russian Federation and told them that they wanted to take them to a safe place. They had half an hour to pack their things.

Read the full story in Kathimerini here.


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