A Ukrainian man who was detained by the Russian army for 45 days after the capture of Mariupol last year decided to take his three children to the Russian capital when he found out from prison that his three children had been sent to Moscow.
Ievhen Mezhevii, 40, went missing with his children Matvii, 13, Sviatoslava, 9, and Oleksandra, 7, on February 24, 2022, the first day of the invasion. He settled in the basement of the Mariupol hospital, which would later be captured by Russian soldiers.
In early April, Ievhen and Matvii said Vanity Fair, the family and hundreds of Ukrainians who lived there were taken to the village of Vinohradne on the outskirts to seek refuge from the bombings and fighting. After examining Ievhen’s documents and finding that he had served in the army between 2016 and 2019, they moved him and his children to a separate cell.
Later, they were separated: Ivan was in custody for a month and a half, and it was not known where his children had gone. When he got out of the Olanvinka prison, where the Russians had long used Ukrainian prisoners of war, he went to Donetsk, where his papers were, and where he hoped to get information about the children’s whereabouts.
Arriving in the city, Ievhen retrieved his documents, but an official of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic informed him that the children’s birth certificates were missing. “Your children flew to the Moscow region at five o’clock this morning for a vacation in the Poliani countryside,” the woman reportedly said.
At first, Ievhen says he was “obsessed” with the information, but after a while he calmed down while talking to his children on the cell phone. He planned to look for a job and already had some money in his pocket, to contact the camp in Russia so that they would return the children to him.
But one day in June, Ivan’s children were called to the library. “There were three women from social services,” Matvey said Vanity Fair. “One of them said, ‘You know, your dad can’t do it right now. We can’t take you [para Donetsk] Because there are fights. So we can send you to a foster home for a while.
The boy was adamant that he would not take any decision without talking to his father first. Matvii called Ievhen and told him he had five days to pick them up before they could be adopted or put into foster care. “I realized I had no time to look for a job. I had to take a risk, go to Russia and get them out of there as soon as possible”, said Ivan Guardian.
As he had no money for the trip, the man sought the help of volunteers, who not only financed the trip, but also wrote a letter in his name asking Vladimir Putin’s office to allow the children to return to Ukraine.
“It was very difficult to enter Russia from the occupied territories. Despite already being in prison for 45 days, I was interrogated repeatedly even though I wanted my children back. But no one wanted to know about it. Finally, I crossed the border and boarded a train to Moscow,” she told the British newspaper.
Ievhen Mezhevii says he was “shocked” when he realized the camp his children were in was “surrounded by high fences and iron gates”. A Vanity FairHe explained that the platform was “controlled by guards with sticks”.
The father of three was forced to fill out a lot of paperwork and was questioned by at least five people, including an official from the Commission for the Protection of Children’s Rights, whose head Maria Lavova-Belova had an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court on Friday.
The eldest son, Matvi, had to fill out a document formally requesting that he and his sisters be transferred back to his father. “A 13-year-old boy had to write this nonsense”, protests Ievhen. “Absolutely ridiculous. But you know what? I don’t want to think about it anymore. To this day I can’t believe what my children and I went through. But luckily I already got them back.
When he left Moscow, Ivan decided that the best thing for the family was to move to Latvia. They currently live in Riga.
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