Many families are scrambling to leave Ukraine to escape the conflict as Russian forces continue to attack its cities.
Nataliya Ableyeva, 58, recently crossed the border from Ukraine to Hungary, bringing alongside two young children entrusted to her by a stranger.
As she waited at the border crossing on the Ukrainian side, Ableyeva met a desperate 38-year-old man from her hometown of Kamianets-Podilskyi. He was with his young son and daughter, but the guards won’t let him pass.
Ukraine has banned all male citizens between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving so they can fight for their country, as per martial law and orders from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
However, women and children were allowed to leave, so the man had no choice but to look for a trustworthy face in the crowd. Among the mob of people, he found Ableyeva and asked her to help his kids cross the border. The former had no second thoughts about granting his request.
“Their father simply handed over the two kids to me, and trusted me, giving me their passports to bring them over,” recalled Ableyeva.
The man told her that the kids’ Ukrainian mother, Anna Semyuk, 33, was on her way from Italy to meet them at the border and take them to safety. He then gave Semyuk’s mobile number to Ableyeva and said goodbye to his children, wrapped up in thick jackets and hats to shield them from the cold.
Unfortunately for Ableyeva, she couldn’t bring her own two grown-up children with her. One a policeman and the other a nurse, they were prohibited from leaving Ukraine under the mobilization decree. The president stated that their professions are crucial to the fight against the Russians, leaving them with no option but to stay behind and join the cause.
Ableyeva took the man’s children by the hand, and they crossed the border together.
They waited at the Hungarian side at Beregsurany and sat on a bench near a tent set up to accommodate the flood of refugees coming over the border. The boy was crying when his mobile phone suddenly rang.
It was his mother, who was calling to say that she was almost at the border post.
When Semyuk arrived, she immediately hugged her son and checked in on her daughter, who was lying in the back of a car and wrapped in a pink blanket.
Semyuk then thanked Ableyeva. Standing on the cold ground, the two mothers embraced for several minutes as their tears flowed.
“All I can say to my kids now, is that everything will be alright,” Semyuk said. “In one or two weeks, and we will go home.”
According to UN Refugee Agency, more than half a million refugees have fled Ukraine amid the ongoing invasion.
“UNHCR is working with partners and local authorities to provide humanitarian aid and support those in need,” said the organization.
During his State of the Union Address, US President Joe Biden condemned Russia’s invasion and pledged solidarity with the Ukrainian people. He also reiterated that the US will not deploy troops to Ukraine.
Witness the heartwarming reunion between the mother and her kids in the video below.
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