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Russia is a child killer. Here are the stories of little Ukrainians who have not survived this war

According to UNICEF, two children die in Ukraine every day. Four more children are injured, mainly as a result of explosive attacks. As of June 4, 465 children were wounded, and 261 were killed in Ukraine during 101 days of the war, as stated by the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine. And these are only the confirmed cases, and the actual figures are still likely to be higher.

On the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression, we honour the memories of children from different regions of Ukraine who died because of Russia’s war against Ukraine. You can do so too by reading their stories.

Not a single life taken by Russia should be forgotten. And no crime against a child should be forgiven. 

Polina, a fourth-grader, and her younger brother

In the first days of full-scale aggression, a Russian sabotage group opened fire on a civilian car in Kyiv. Parents Anton and Svitlana, veterinarians, died on the spot. Just like their daughter Polina. Rescue services took Polina’s brother to the hospital, where the boy later died of his injuries. Only the family’s eldest daughter survived despite a severe gunshot wound. 

Polina’s story has traveled the world. She was a cheerful girl with bright pink hair. The Russian army destroyed her family and their bright future for the sake of… Actually, for the sake of what?

Sashko Yakhno, four years old
Kyiv region

When Russia launched a full-scale invasion, Sashko Yakhno and his grandmother Zoia were in the village of Sukholuchchia. They did not have time to evacuate before the Russians began bombing the village. The occupiers blew up bridges and blocked roads. Sasha celebrated his 4th birthday under occupation.

Locals decided to evacuate children and women by boat. On March 10, two boats were to cross the so-called Kyiv Sea, a reservoir on the Dnipro River. But one of them was overturned — the real cause of the tragedy is still unknown. However, the boy and his grandmother would not have boarded the boat if the Russians had not blockaded their home.

Rescuers found the grandmother’s body. Meanwhile, the entire Ukrainian Instagram spent more than three weeks searching for Sashko and hoping to bring him to his desperate mother. 

Locals found the boy dead.

Sasha said encouragingly in the last conversation with his mother: “Mom, don’t worry! I will come to you when they stop shooting.”

Alisa and Mykyta Perebyinis, 9 and 18 years old

Serhiy, the children’s father, had to leave for Donetsk, occupied by Russia since 2014, in mid-February. The man needed to take  care of his mother, who fell ill with Covid-19. While he was gone, the Russians occupied the Kyiv region from the north. On March 6, Alisa (a girl of 9) and Mykyta (a boy of 18) and their mother tried to evacuate from Irpin, but the Russians fired on them. 

The last time Serhiy talked to his wife and kids was the day before the evacuation.

AP Photo/Andriy Dubchak

The man learned what happened to his family from a video posted online. The media recorded the moment the shell fell and showed the bodies of the dead. Serhiy Perebyinis recognized his children by their clothes, suitcases, and dog carriers. The man grabbed his last hope and asked friends to look for his family among the victims in the hospital. But unfortunately he was right — Russians had killed his children and wife.

Serhiy with portraits of the lost relatives. Photo: Lynsey Addario / The New York Times

Sofiia and Ivan Fedko, 6 years old and 1.5 months old 
Nova Kakhovka, the Kherson region

Oleh Fedko defended the central police department in Nova Kakhovka on the morning of February 24. His father decided to evacuate the son’s family from the city, but the Russians invaded the area on the very same day. Oleh’s family tried to leave the city in two cars. As they crossed the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Station, the Russians shot everyone in the car — Sofiia (just 6 years old) and her little brother Ivan (an infant of 1.5 months), mother Iryna, and the children’s grandparents.

Sofia and her grandfather

During the shooting, Oleh’s brother, Denys, was talking to his mother (Sofia and Ivan’s grandmother) on the phone. He heard gunshots, screams, and the phrase “God, it’s a child. This can’t be happening. “ When the children stopped crying, Denys heard new shots — the Russians wanted to finish off the adults.

Alisa Hluns, 7 years old
Okhtyrka, the Sumy region

The Sumy region has a border with Russia in the east of Ukraine. This territory has been a hot spot since the first day of the full-scale aggression. 

On February 25, Russians fired from “Grad” and “Hurricane” multiple rocket launch systems at kindergartens in Okhtyrka. The occupiers wounded several children, and Alisa Hluns was among them. Her grandfather tried to cover Alisa with his body and died because of the shelling, protecting his granddaughter in any way he could. But the doctors could not save the girl’s life either — she died the next day in the hospital.

Alisa and her grandfather

Kateryna Diachenko, 11 years old

Kateryna attended gymnastics lessons in her hometown Mariupol. She had achieved significant success in her hobby and even planned to participate in a tournament this summer in Spain. Perhaps Katya would have brought home an important trophy, a mark of her achievements, from her sunny trip to Europe. However, Russia decided to take away this opportunity. And her life.

As the Russians shelled their house, Katia’s mother saw how the upper floors fall on her daughter with her own eyes.

Katia with her coach

Coach Anastasia told the story of the girl on Instagram. The woman called the little gymnast “my star.”

Nikola Goriainov, 3 years old

When the Russian military occupied the village of Husarivka, Nikola’s parents tried to evacuate. When they left the village with the column of other cars, Russians started to shoot the column. Young parents Yevhen and Anna died with their 3-year-old son.

“The first two cars drove away quickly, and no one was injured. But the Russians hit the car [where Goriainovs’ family rode]. Yevhen began to loop, and the car overturned. Then the Russians fired again with a grenade launcher,” the grandmother of the deceased boy, Nikola, recalls with horror.

Kira Hlodan, 3 months

Newborn Kira with her granny

Russians fired nine rockets at Odesa on April 23. One hit the residential building where three-month-old baby Kira lived with her parents. The child, along with her mother Valeriia and grandmother Liudmyla died. 

That evening, the family was preparing to celebrate their first Easter with newborn Kira. The girl, born during the war, never got a chance to see our world. Just as her father lost the opportunity to see his child’s first steps, hear her first words, and take her to school for the first time.

Yurii, the father of little Kira, had some business in the city at the time of tragedy. When he came back, he saw the ruined house and ran to look for his family, crying as he went. “A Russian rocket destroyed my world,” says 28-years-old Yurii.

Russia is not just destroying Ukraine. It destroys whole generations of Ukrainians. It takes away our children’s future and the future of their parents, who will now live a life of deep sorrow.

The children, the most innocent victims of this war, deserve eternal memory and a promise from the civilized world: that no child’s death caused by Russia will go unpunished. 

Tonia Chundak, content manager and media volunteer