Mothers would do anything to keep their children safe, even when it means separating from them in the middle of a war.
That’s a sacrifice a Ukrainian mother named Yulia Pisetskaya had to make when she put her son, Hassan, on a train going to Slovakia from Zaporizhzhia, a city attacked by Russian forces last week.
The mom of the 11-year-old was desperate to get at least one of her kids to safety. However, she couldn’t go with Hassan because she was unwell and needed to care for her disabled mother.
As much as it broke her heart, Yulia had to let Hassan go alone. Bringing with him only a plastic bag, a passport, and a telephone number scribbled on his hand, the boy courageously boarded the train as his mother looked on.
Thankfully, Hassan made it safely to Slovakia, where border guards looked after him upon his arrival. Traveling over 600 miles from southeastern Ukraine alone, the police described him as a “hero.”
The phone number written on his hand was of his relatives in the Slovakian capital, Bratislava. The authorities tracked them down, and they have since taken Hassan into their care. His siblings have also made it to the country.
Yulia took to Facebook to thank the Slovaks for ensuring her son remained safe.
“I am very grateful that they saved the life of my child,” she said in a video message posted on the platform and translated by The Daily Mail. “In your small country, there are people with big hearts.”
In the video, Yulia shared that she’s widowed with many children. She thanked the Slovak customs and volunteers who took care of Hassan and helped him across the border.
“I am grateful you have saved my child’s life,” she said. “Next to my town is a nuclear power plant that the Russians are shooting at. I couldn’t leave my mother – she can’t move on her own.”
She ended her message with an emotional plea: “Please save our Ukrainian children.”
The Slovakian interior ministry shared Hassan’s story on Facebook, saying that he “won everybody’s hearts with his smile, fearlessness, and determination, worthy of a real hero.”
Policemen, customs officers, soldiers, and volunteers assisted the boy and kept him warm. They also packed food and drinks for him for his next trip.
“Thanks to the number on his hand and a piece of paper in his waist, he managed to contact his loved ones, who came for him later, and the whole story ended well,” the officials added.
In the early hours of Friday, Russian troops attacked Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant, which produces around 20% of Ukraine’s electricity. They have seized control of the facility since then.
In an update posted on Facebook, Interior Minister Roman Mikulec commended Hassan for his “huge determination, courage, and fearlessness.”
“I am really very sorry for him and all the other children and their families who have to flee their country because of what is happening in Ukraine,” he wrote.
The minister said that the siblings had applied for temporary protection. Mikulec also assured other Ukrainian refugees that Slovakia is ready to help.
Asking for temporary protection would mean getting access to health care, social security, food, accommodation, education, and job opportunities. Mikulec clarified that asking for one in Slovakia doesn’t mean that they won’t be able to travel to other EU countries.
The Slovakian Interior Ministry urged those who want to help Hassan’s mother and grandmother to contact the Association of Christian Youth Fellowships at firstname.lastname@example.org for ways to assist.
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We are sending our love and prayers to the people of Ukraine and the countries that have stepped up their efforts to help the evacuees.