Last updated on November 1, 2022
The war between Russia and Ukraine has resulted in a string of atrocities. One of the most horrifying and heartbreaking has been the thousands of Ukrainian children forcibly relocated to Russia.
These children are swept up from various places and put on buses to drive them further into Russian-controlled territory and eventually, the motherland herself.
The Russian government takes pride in its latest war tactic. On state-run televisions, officials are shown offering teddy bears to children before they run joyously into the arms of their new guardians (New York Times). The children then start the process of becoming Russian citizens and receive lessons on how to be a good patriots.
However, the reality is much darker than the feel-good story broadcasted. Ukrainian officials argue that Russia has committed an act of genocide under international law by forcibly taking children and educating them with propaganda (New York Times). Many of the interviewed children tell troubling accounts of the deception and force they experienced while on the journey to Russia. When asked to recount her experience, Anya, a 14-year-old living with a foster family near Moscow, told the New York Times, “I didn’t want to go…But nobody asked me.” Another boy, Timofey explains, “It was very difficult for me without my mother and father…I constantly cried” (AP News).
Russia presents the idea that they are rescuing abandoned, parentless children, although this is simply not the case. The children taken from Ukrainian government orphanages typically do have families (AP News). Ukraine makes it easy for those struggling with substance abuse or poverty to leave their children temporarily or permanently in government facilities. By a UN estimate, roughly 90,000 children were in orphanages pre-wartime.
Over 8,000 children have been taken to Russia by the estimates of Ukrainian officials. The parents of the lost children face a heart-wrenching reality. Olga Lopatkina, the mother of 6 children who were taken by Russia, explains, “Every day they turned the children against us, telling them “your parents abandoned you…We will transfer you to the best families. You will have a better life” (AP News).
Not all of those who were resettled resent the situation. Some look forward to their new lives and have adjusted well (AP News). For Russian foster parents, it has offered a unique opportunity. One foster mother proclaims, “There are children who need to be given affection, love, care, family, mom and dad. If we can give it why not?” (AP News).
For now, the fate of these children is uncertain. Will they grow into patriotic Russians or instead be returned to their parent’s care? The only thing for certain is, all too often it is the most vulnerable who pay the price of war.