As Russia continues to invade Ukraine, the Slovakian police have shared the heartbreaking story of a 11-year-old boy who travelled to the Slovakia-Ukraine border by himself—with only a backpack, a passport, a note from his mother and a telephone number scribbled on his hand.
Hailing from Zaporizhzhia in southeast Ukraine, the boy reportedly travelled over 1,000 kilometres by train to Slovakia alone in hopes of finding his relatives.
“Volunteers took care of him, kept him warm and provided him with food and drink, which they packed for him on his next journey,” the Slovakian police force shared in a post—along with images of the bright boy wrapped in a jacket, hat, scarf and a red backpack. Despite his undoubtedly traumatic travel, the 11-year-old won over the border officials “with his smile, fearlessness and determination, worthy of a real hero.” The police then hailed him as “a hero of the night.”
Thanks to the telephone number written on the boy’s hand and the note from his mother folded inside his passport, the border authorities were able to get in touch with the 11-year-old’s relatives in Slovakia—who were then able to collect him from the camp. “He came all alone because his parents had to stay in Ukraine,” the post went on to share.
Soon after the boy was united with his loved ones in Slovakia, his mother sent a video thanking the Slovak government and the police for taking care of him.
“My name is Yulia V Pisecka, I’m a Ukrainian citizen from Zaporizhzhia,” she said in the video. “There is a nuclear plant next to my town, which the occupants [Russians] are shooting at. It was on fire. I can’t leave my mother, she can’t move independently. So I sent my son alone on a train towards the Slovak border, where he met people with a big heart.”
“My son is 11 years old and he arrived at the Slovak border by train, where he met customs officers who took him by the hand and helped him cross the border into Slovakia. In Slovakia, volunteers took care of him, gave him food and took him to Bratislava,” she continued. “I want to express my sincere gratitude for all Slovak customs officers and the volunteers who cared for my son. They helped him cross the border on his own. I am grateful that you saved my child’s life.”
With Russia’s attack on the biggest nuclear power plant in Europe (housed in Zaporizhzhia) raising fears of a global catastrophe, the 11-year-old’s journey is just one example out of the 1.3 million people estimated to have crossed from Ukraine into neighbouring countries since war broke out on 24 February. “Please save our Ukrainian children and give them a safe haven,” the boy’s mother urged, breaking down in tears towards the end of the video.
A heroic Ukrainian soldier blew himself up with a bridge in order to stop Russian troops from advancing further, according to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Sharing the news on their Facebook page, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said that Skakun Vitaliy Volodymyrovych took up a position on the Henichesk Bridge near Crimea when Russian tanks were advancing. After realising that he would not be able to get out in time before the explosion, the soldier allegedly took the decision to stay down and ensure that the bridge was destroyed, whatever the cost.
Ukrainian Armed Forces have since called him a hero who sacrificed his life for his country.
The translated post read: “On this difficult day for our country, when the Ukrainian people are repelling the Russian occupiers in all directions, one of the most difficult places on the map of Ukraine was the Isthmus of Perekop, where a separate marines battalion was one of the first to meet the enemy.”
Quoting the same force, Euromaidan Press wrote on Twitter: “To stop the advance of the tank column, the decision was to blow up the Henichesk bridge. The engineer Skakun Vitaliy volunteered to perform this task. He mined the bridge but couldn’t leave and blew it up together with himself.”
His comrades reported that they heard Vitaliy planning to blow up the bridge, and then heard an immediate explosion. The general staff statement continued, “Our comrade died. His heroic deed significantly slowed the enemy’s advance, which allowed the unit to redeploy and organise the defence.”
The statement also confirmed that Vitaliy will be considered for a state military award, “The Marine Command will apply to the High Command to award the state award to sailor Skakun Vitaliy Volodymyrovych.”
It finished by stating: “Russian invaders, know, under your feet the earth will burn! We will fight as long as we live! And as long as we are alive we will fight!”
Despite the soldier’s sacrifice, it is believed that the area has now been seized by Russian forces. The invasion, which started in the early hours of Thursday 24 February, went on for a second day, with Russian forces moving towards Kyiv, meeting heavy resistance along the way.
Sadly, recent footage showed tanks arriving in the capital. Ukraine’s government has banned men aged between 18 and 60 years old from leaving the area and has asked that anyone who is willing and able to take up arms against the invaders should do so.