Ukrainian dad who saved 3,500 disabled kids shot dead by Russian sniper

By Malavika Pradeep

Published Mar 10, 2022 at 12:39 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

A heroic dad who helped hundreds of American families adopt Ukrainian children in the past has become the latest victim of Russia’s atrocities amid the ongoing war. For the last 30 years, 62-year-old Serge Zevlever has been assisting disabled orphans find loving homes. When the St.Louis-based hero was in Ukraine for work and helping families escape the invasion still raging today, he was shot dead by a Russian sniper outside a bomb shelter.

Ukrainian dad who saved 3,500 disabled kids shot dead by Russian sniper
Ukrainian dad who saved 3,500 disabled kids shot dead by Russian sniper

The tragedy happened when Zevlever, his wife and stepson were hiding near their high-rise apartment building. The man then volunteered to check on the commotion nearby. Once outside, he was immediately shot in the chest by a Chechen sniper fighting for Russia, as family members looked on.

“He was not in a scuffle, he was not on the front lines,” Zevlever’s eldest daughter, Alisa Sander, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He went outside to see if it was safe for everyone else, but they were aiming their guns right at the place where these people were sheltering.”

At the time, Zevlever and the others thought no one was attacking civilians. “But this is not true. It was just the most incredible injustice,” his daughter continued. “My dad was such a beautiful human, so the injustice is magnified by a million.”

Ukrainian dad who saved 3,500 disabled kids shot dead by Russian sniper

In Ukraine, if a disabled child is not adopted by the age of five, they are mandatorily transferred to live the rest of their days in an adult psychiatric institution. Zevlever’s mission was to find these children a lovely home before they hit the age limit. “My dad knew what would happen if those kids were not taken and given a good home. He fought for those kids just like every single one was his own,” Sander told Fox2Now.

Ukrainian by birth, Zevlever fled to Italy with his wife and daughter during the collapse of the Soviet Union—where he proceeded to protest the US ban on Visa approvals by staging a hunger strike with fellow refugees.

After becoming an American citizen, Zevlever joined the military and served in Desert Storm, the US’ first major armed conflict with Iraq. Following his retirement, he then worked as a taxi driver and pizza delivery personnel, while sponsoring more of his relatives to arrive in the US. It was towards the late 1990s that Zevlever found his calling at an international adoptions agency founded by his Ukrainian friends.

The heroic dad dedicated decades working tirelessly towards his mission up until his death. Even in his final days, he was working hard to get every American family out of Ukraine and over the Romanian border with their newly adopted children. The Chechen snipers responsible for Zevlever’s death have since been apprehended by Ukrainian forces.

“Last night, Serge died a hero to his country,” tributes that poured on his Facebook page read. “Everyone should know this man’s name.”

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