- Ukrainian grandmother undertakes dangerous mission to rescue her grandson from Russian-occupied territory.
- Over 19,000 Ukrainian children taken to Russia or Russian-occupied territory since the war began.
- Russian authorities aiming to erase Ukrainian identity and brainwash Ukrainian children through re-education and lies.
With the help of a nongovernmental organization called Save Ukraine, a Ukrainian grandmother went on a daring mission to rescue her 9-year-old grandson from Russian-occupied territory. She had to craft a cover story and travel through a minefield behind enemy lines to reach her grandson. Over 19,000 Ukrainian children have been taken to Russia or Russian-occupied territory since the war began. The International Criminal Court has charged Russian President Vladimir Putin and his deputy in charge of children’s rights with war crimes related to the unlawful deportation and transfer of children.
Russia’s plan is to destroy Ukrainian identity by brainwashing and Russifying Ukrainian children. Many Ukrainian children are put in Russian-run schools and camps, where they are subjected to re-education and lies about losing the war and their parents not wanting them. The goal is to erase their Ukrainian past and future.
Nikita, the grandson of a Ukrainian grandmother named Polina, was living in a boarding school for children with special needs when the war broke out. Russian authorities ordered all the children in the school to be transferred deeper into Russian-controlled territory. Polina found out about her grandson’s move by chance and later discovered that he had been moved multiple times, including to an orphanage in Russia. She described his abduction as the Russian Federation stealing him.
Save Ukraine has helped rescue over 200 children, including Polina’s grandson. Only women go on the rescue missions because the men need to stay behind and fight. The mothers and grandmothers receive a safety briefing and are told to focus on their children and not be afraid of the intimidation from the Russians. The rescue missions involve traveling through dangerous areas with the help of a secret network organized by Save Ukraine.
Polina’s journey to find her grandson involved pretending to be an aid worker and navigating through minefields and border checkpoints. The Russian-installed director of the school initially refused to release Nikita, leading Polina to fear that they were planning to give him a new life in Russia. She stood her ground for 70 days until she was finally reunited with her grandson, with Russian cameras present. The reunification was captured on camera as well, with Russian officials offering Polina money, a car, and the opportunity to stay in Russia, which she declined.
Now reunited, Polina and Nikita are on their way back to Poland, where they plan to live until the war is over. Polina is in the process of filing for Ukrainian guardianship of her grandson. While Polina is speaking out and sharing her story, Nikita simply wants to play with his grandmother.