While Russia continues to invade Ukraine, one particular story made headlines earlier in March—an 11-year-old boy crossed the Ukrainian border alone in order to flee the country and find his relatives. Fast forward to mid-March, and the boy’s 750-mile trek now has a positive update as he has successfully been reunited with his mother.
Slovakian police previously shared the story of Hassan Pisecká, the bright and beaming boy in question, who fled Ukraine by himself in search of his relatives—with only a passport, a note from his mother and a phone number written on his hand. The boy travelled 1,000 kilometres by train to Bratislava, Slovakia, all the way from Zaporizhzhia in southeast Ukraine. Pisecká is among the estimated one million children who have ventured out of the war-torn country, according to ABC News.
It’s been reported that the young Pisecká has now joined his mother and widow, Júlia Pisecká Volodymyrivna, in a heartwarming tale of reunion between the family members. While the boy fled the unstable turmoil of Ukraine in the midst of the raging war, his mother stayed behind to take care of his 84-year-old grandmother who was immobile and, therefore, unable to flee.
In a video statement, Pisecká’s mother thanked officials who helped her son and explained why she couldn’t travel with him at the time. “I can’t leave my mother, who is 84-years-old and who can’t walk on her own. That is why I put my son on a train to the Slovakia border where he was met by people with big hearts,” she said.
Prior to this crisis, the family had to flee Syria without Pisecká’s dad years ago. In this regard, the Slovakian police forces went on to state: “They lost everything again, but this time the war didn’t take anyone away from them.”
However, in an uplifting turn of events, Pisecká’s mother, grandmother and their dog have also managed to flee and join him and his other siblings since then.
In previous posts shared about Pisecká’s journey, Slovakian police circulated images of the boy smiling warmly with a hat and backpack perched on his shoulders. Greeting the volunteers at the camp despite the harrowing circumstances, officials at the border were stunned by the small boy’s “fearlessness and determination.” They also lauded him as “a hero of the night.”
Guided with only a phone number written on his hand, Pisecká ventured across the border—while the note tied to his waist allowed officials to contact his family in Slovakia. Pisecká was reunited with his four other siblings already in the country in a series of heartwarming pictures and videos shared by the border patrol.
Making an appearance on Good Morning Britain, the boy shared how unsure he felt about the future but added that he “is happy to be safe.”
For Pisecká’s siblings, one of the biggest concerns was their mother’s safety and wellbeing. The children were concerned about their mother, saying: “Everyone who was with her her whole life we all left her all in one moment.”
Translating for the young boy, Pisecká’s sister added: “The kids and the people were sitting in the hall, everyone was talking in foreign languages and he wasn’t understanding so that was the scariest [part of the journey] for him.”
Another gripping aspect of Pisecká’s journey involved the train ride. His sister went on to explain: “The train was very, very full, there were 300 people in one carriage.” She also mentioned that the 11-year-old likes Slovakia “because it’s safe. He doesn’t know about the future because he doesn’t know about the situation in Ukraine. He is not thinking about the future, he just wants to be with us.”
The eldest son added: “We think about our mother and we miss our mother.”
Since leaving Ukraine, the entire family has been reunited with their mother in Bratislava. “The train ride was very difficult. Hundreds were crammed in a single car. But we had to escape so our family could be back together,” his mother shared with The Sun.
“I’d like to thank everyone from [the bottom of] my heart. We have to start from scratch. We lost everything we’ve had but we’re healthy,” she continued. For Pisecká, though the journey was gruelling and a big risk for an 11-year-old to brave alone, “he says the most important is to be in the place where he has family,” his sister translated.
Russia has begun to invade neighbouring country Ukraine as of today, Thursday 24 February, under orders from President Vladamir Putin, who announced a “special military operation” at dawn. After the President’s declaration, Russian forces began crossing Ukrainian borders and bombing military targets near its largest cities.
The decision prompted world leaders to issue warnings that this move could spark the largest scale war in Europe since 1945.
Russia has amassed over 150,000 combat troops on the borders of Ukraine, with an additional 34,000 separate and lightly armed divisions in the pro-Russian statelets of Donetsk and Luhansk. When Putin announced a military action in eastern Ukraine, he claimed it was intended to “demilitarise” the country and to protect civilians. In a pre-dawn televised announcement, the President stated that the military manoeuvre was in response to threats coming from Ukraine and pleas for help from the separatists in the neighbouring country. He went on to say that Russia had no intention to occupy Ukraine and the Ukrainian “regime” is responsible for the bloodshed.
Moments later, just after Putin’s announcement at around 6 am in Moscow, reports of attacks on Ukrainian military targets began. Explosions were heard outside Kiev and reported in several other major cities. Warning sirens also started to sound across the capital, whose population is around three million. The fleets deployed amount to an estimated two-thirds of Russia’s total ground forces, according to The Guardian. Half of Moscow’s troops have also been utilised in the region.
Russian forces breached the border in multiple destinations, Belarus in the north, Crimea in the south and Russia in the east. Currently, an estimated seven people are known to have been killed, including civilians, according to the BBC. However, one Ukrainian presidential adviser has alleged that more than 40 soldiers have died and dozens more were wounded.
Following the invasion, the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky declared martial law across the country today. In his address to the nation, he told his citizens to remain calm and said that the country will “defeat everyone,” as noted by The Independent. Severing all diplomatic relations with Russia, the Ukrainian leader also stated “we are strong. We are ready for everything.” The invasion is set to be one of the biggest since 2003 with the US-led operation in Iraq, where 175,000 troops were deployed.
Furthermore, it appears as though Russia is attacking the military infrastructure of Ukraine with early strike explosions that have been reported at airfields, military warehouses and military headquarters. A UN security meeting was also scheduled as the war broke.
Putin’s reasoning also stems from unfounded claims he made previously in a separate televised announcement this week. The angry address included assertions that Ukraine’s democratically elected government were to blame for eight years of genocide.
Over in Washington, President Joe Biden has called the move “an unprovoked attack,” committing to further action being taken against Moscow, and said that the US and its allies will respond in a “decisive way.” However, Putin has warned the international community of foreign leaders that they’d witness “consequences greater than any you have faced in history” over any attempts at interference.
The Independent further reported that the UN Secretary General Secretary-General António Guterres has asked Russia’s leader to withdraw his troops and “give peace a chance.” Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has labelled the conflict a “catastrophe for our continent” and condemned Putin for choosing “a path of bloodshed and destruction”.
SCREENSHOT interviewed one Ukrainian citizen about her experience and views on the growing tensions between the two countries.
“The last two weeks became especially tensive. People are different all over the world so there were diverse reactions to the situation,” she said. Many fled during the rising possibility of war on the horizon. The woman also noted that “eventually, some people had their bags packed when others were too tired of politics and just stopped reading [the] news.”
The woman admitted that she ultimately feels “doomed,” despite support from citizens across the world and in western countries. “Their governments are not ready for a war with Russia. All they can do is just blame Putin and condemn their actions. But none will really stand up for Ukraine,” she explained.
“I feel like the whole world is watching, empathising and can’t do anything. It reminds me of times when everyone was watching Squid Games. We are like the next reality show to people,” The woman went on to share.
Fears for the future and an impending third World War have begun. Sandra de Monte, founder and director of MindBerry Group spoke to Metro about the anxiety many are feeling across the world as we speak. With credits in global health, psychotherapy and counselling from Harvard and Regents University, De Monte said “the disturbing events that are unfolding in Ukraine have, understandably, left people across the world anxious.”
“Unfortunately, these types of events are often reminders of how many circumstances and situations affecting society are outside of our control,” she went on to elaborate.
Though it’s true that there’s no way to self-care yourself out of the anxiety, for those of us who can, “it’s important to assess how you’re doing, check in with loved ones, and take steps to prioritise your emotional wellbeing.”