By: Colleen Nakhooda
I came across this news topic in a post by the New York Times that was on my instagram feed. The title, “The Russians Took Their Children. These Mothers Went and Got Them Back,” caught my attention. As Russia became increasingly more in control of regions in Ukraine, they began to kidnap children from Ukraine, putting them into camps or even adopting them out to Russian families. As the war has grown more violent, this has put a dagger in the hearts of mothers like Natalya Zhornyk and Yulia Radzevilova. Natalya’s son, Artem Hutorov, was taken from his school at just fifteen years old, and transferred to a region under even greater Russian-occupation in Ukraine. His mother had no idea where he was or if she would ever see him again, and there was absolutely no warning. Similar to that of kidnapping and displacement of hostages, adults, and children in the Korean War, Russian troops would then “re-educate” the individuals they took from Ukraine into believing in various Russian ideals. According to the New York Times, almost 150,000 children have been taken without their consent, and oftentimes with force, to Russia.
Due to the laws regarding men in Ukraine not being able to leave if they are of military age, Zhornyk put together a group of women supported by a charity called Save Ukraine and took on the 3,000 mile journey there and back to rescue their children from the Russian authorities. After Zhornyk received a phone call from her son Artem, who happened to remember his mother’s phone number and used the school director’s phone, she set out through Poland, Belarus, and Russia to finally make contact and gain entry. Another mother, Inessa Vertash has not seen her son for over five months but was able to communicate with him via phone calls. He explained the horrific conditions of the “re-education camp” he was sent to as being similar to a prison. His mother said, “there were no sheets on the beds, they were made to wear clothes of old people, given food only fit for pigs and beaten if they didn’t sing the Russian anthem”, according to the New York Post. The article also discussed recent witness acounts that state that Russian troops were forcing 13 year old Ukranian girls to have sex with them. The difficult aspect of recovering these children is that there are more than 63 different camps that they are being sent too, making the rescue process even more treacherous. This issue is oftentimes disregarded by the media as the situation seems almsot unfathomable in a way. These kidnappings are considered war crimes and they demonstrate the horrific, and brutal reality of the growing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The links to the articles that I revied this story on are below / the link to Save Ukraine which is the charity that helps mothers reconnect with their children :
New York Post: https://nypost.com/2023/03/06/ukrainian-kids-kidnapped-by-russia-sent-to-re-education-camps/
New York Times: