Nearly three million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded the country on February 24. An estimated one million children have made the dangerous journey out of the country.
One of those children is 11-year-old Hassan Al-Khalaf from Zaporizhzhia, who fled to Slovakia all by himself after Russia took control of a nuclear power plant near his city.
Hassan traveled more than 620 miles by train and foot, holding just a plastic bag that had a few belongings, including his passport. He also had a phone number written on his hand.
Once the boy reached Slovakia, border guards and Good samaritans immediately helped Hassan get in touch with his older siblings by calling the number written on his hand.
Hassan happily reunited with his brother, who had been studying in Slovakia.
Although the trip was dangerous and extremely frightening for refugees, let alone a small boy, Hassan never lost hope.
“I got my hope from my mom wanting me to go,” he said. “My hope carried me on my way.”
Hassan’s mother, Pisecka Yulia Volodymyrivna, a widow, had to make the very difficult and heartbreaking decision to send Hassan out of Ukraine to safety and away from ground attack and aerial explosions.
She had to stay behind to care for her elderly mother who is unable to walk.
“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. “There are people with big hearts in your small country. Please, save our children. Please protect our Ukrainian children.”
Volodymyrivna expressed her sincerest thanks to the border guards and Good samaritans who took care of her son and saved his life.
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