LifestyleUkrainian father braves Moscow to reunite with forcibly relocated children amid conflict

Ukrainian father braves Moscow to reunite with forcibly relocated children amid conflict

A 40-year-old Ukrainian came to Moscow to pick up his children.
A 40-year-old Ukrainian came to Moscow to pick up his children.
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11:05 AM EST, February 7, 2024, updated: 4:03 AM EST, March 7, 2024

International media have frequently spotlighted the forceful removal of Ukrainian children far into Russia and the subsequent tearing apart of families. One of these victims was Yevhen Mezhevikin, a 40-year-old residing in Mariupol. Russian forces separated him from his children and relocated them to Russia. The number of such cases in Ukraine runs into thousands.

Undeterred in his quest to find his forcibly deported children

Yevhen's family sought refuge in a shelter situated within a Mariupol hospital. It was here that they encountered Russian soldiers. On March 17, 2022, the father was alerted by his son who whispered in alarm, "Dad, Russian soldiers are on the staircase."

Between 2016 and 2019, Yevhen Mezhevikin was a serviceman in the Ukrainian army operating in the country's west. When Russian forces discovered this, Yevhen was subsequently imprisoned for 45 days. Immediately upon his release, he journeyed to Donetsk to find his three children, two daughters and a son, who had been forcibly taken to a Russian center, eventually landing up as far away as Moscow.

To secure his children's freedom from the Russian clutches, the 40-year-old had to work continuously to accumulate necessary funds. Alarmingly, in June 2022, the center housing the children was on the brink of closure, and its occupants were to be pushed into foster care or orphanages. With the aid of volunteers, Yevhen made it to Moscow.

"I was in shock"

As soon as the Ukrainian reached Moscow, Alexey Gazarian, a Children's Ombudsman's office representative, got in touch with him. To reclaim his children, Yevhen was informed, he had to secure special permission from the social services of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic. Fortunately, the permission was granted on June 20, and with the help of volunteers, the man retrieved his children and they all safely traveled to Latvia.

"I was shocked when I caught sight of the massive gate of the camp under the watchful eyes of the armed guards (...) While I was finalizing paperwork, I heard my daughters' voices and I froze. We rushed towards each other for a long hug. Then, my son Matvey came forward", the 40-year-old recounted to a 'The Guardian' journalist.

Yevhen encountered intense scrutiny before the reunion with his children, with at least five individuals interrogating him. Numerous pages of specialized documents had to be filled before he was permitted to take his children. Among these papers was a letter in which Yevhen had to seek his 13-year-old son's consent to look after him and his sisters once more.

"My thoughts on Putin's visit to Mariupol? May his car tyre go flat"

Last Sunday, Yevhen spotted Vladimir Putin on the internet, appearing in Mariupol. When questioned about his thoughts on the Russian President's visit, he wished for Putin to get a flat tyre.

"He means nothing to me, but half the world recognizes him", added the 40-year-old Ukrainian.

'The Guardian' emphasized that Yevhen struggled to suppress his anger at Putin's presence on Ukrainian soil. After all, Putin had approved the policy of forcibly deporting Ukrainian children deep into Russia.

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