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'I want to believe in a miracle': The desperate search for the thousands missing in Ukraine

Tetiana Popovych last spoke to her son on March 1.

Vlad Popovych (29 years old) was hiding in the basement at a school in his village, just outside Kyiv, as Russian forces advanced.

He said to me, “Mum don’t come here.” Something terrible is about to begin. This is not the movie. Tetiana said, “This is a terrible conflict.”

He attempted to flee the next day, but was shot and injured. His family was left panicking.


They are among thousands of families that have been torn apart in Russia’s war. Loved ones are buried under rubble, hurt and unable make contact, or forcibly removed by Russian soldiers to Russia or Belarus.

According to the interior ministry of Ukraine, more than 7,000 missing persons reports have been received by police since Russia’s invasion. About half of those reported missing have been found.

Tetiana, 52 years old, spends her time searching for her child, holding on to the hope that her only child is still with her.

She said that it was the most difficult thing, in Bucha, where she lives together with her mother. It’s a mile from Blystavytsya, where her son was staying with Tetiana’s ex husband and stepmother.

“If only I could find some information about his fate. She said that she had never imagined that she would need to find out whether her son was alive or dead.

Image Tetiana has not spoken with her son missing since March

Tetiana explained that Vlad attempted to flee his village along with his stepmother Polina Chervakova (47), in their minibus on March 2.

They were attacked by Russian soldiers as they approached a bridge.

They jumped from their car and attempted to run down a path of grass, but Polina was shot in her jaw. Vlad was then shot in the leg. She told Vlad that she would continue to go. Polina tried to help Vlad, but he was shot in the leg again.

She fell unconscious. Vlad wasn’t there when Polina arrived.

Tetiana stated that she tried to find him, but it was too dark.

Image Vlad Popovych was wounded and shot while trying to flee from Russian soldiers

Polina, gravely wounded, knocked on the door of a nearby home. Russian soldiers arrived and ordered her to leave. After several days in freezing temperatures, she finally made it to her family home with her husband.

Tetiana stated that Tetiana had told her that she ate snow and drank water from the puddle to survive.

At that point, Russian forces had seized control of the region.

Tetiana was in another part of the country at that time and couldn’t search for her son until March, when the Russian military had finally been defeated.

She has not stopped looking for Vlad since then, putting up posters with his mobile number outside buildings and fences.

She is certain he is still alive. Tetiana stated, “I have no other consideration.”

I think he may be in captivity, or that he has lost his memory. She suggested that he might be in captivity or has lost his memory.

Image Anna Kotlyarova, her daughter Inga and her son-in-law Andrii Geleta

A mother in similar pain is also suffering.

Anna Kotlyarova, a Kyiv resident, has not heard anything from Inga Levko and Andrii Geleta since a text message exchange on March 4.

The couple was renovating their home in Kolonschyna just outside of the capital. They had lived with a neighbor when the Russians invaded the area.

While the neighbour’s house was destroyed, the couple’s home was left standing. However, it was temporarily taken over the Russian soldiers until their withdrawal at the end March.

Anna stated that “On 7 April, when we arrived here with the cops and criminal investigators, they didn’t find any bodies,” standing by the couple’s house and the ruins of their neighbor’s house. “They found only burned phones and possibly some bones of animals.”

Image Anna is still without Inga or Andrii as of 4 March

She still hopes for her husband and daughter to be alive.

“You know, I tell myself she is. I believe in miracles.

Anna was asked what she misses most about her daughter. She replied that “We are inseparable pieces of each other… We were always on the same wavelength.” It’s like you lose half of yourself, or even all of your self.

Anna will not give up until she has found the answers.

She said, “I’m trying keep being strong.” “If anything happens to me nobody will be looking for them.”


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