Prayer for the children
In early April, a civilian car drove slowly toward a Russian checkpoint in the occupied town of Vasylivka, Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
It had passed dozens of checkpoints on its way from the occupied city of Melitopol to the Ukrainian-controlled regional capital Zaporizhzhia. None of its passengers expected what was about to happen. As a Russian soldier approached the car, he spotted a teenage boy checking something on his phone. “What are you doing, filming me?” the soldier yelled.
He took the boy’s phone and pulled him out of the car.

“Should I shoot you right now or smash your phone?” he shouted, pointing his gun at the boy. The furious soldier dragged the boy to the backyard of a nearby cafe where Russian troops were based, leaving those in the car speechless and terrified.
The following 90 days in Russian captivity would become nothing but unimaginable horror for the 16-year-old.
“Every minute there was a very severe challenge because every minute could have been
my last.”

He is not the only Ukrainian minor who has spent a long time in Russian captivity since Russia’s all-out war began on Feb. 24: Russians have held captive five minors in Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Two of them remained imprisoned as of the end of July.

A total of 203 children have been recorded missing in Ukraine as of the beginning of August. Most of them went missing in the war’s hotspots. Russia’s war has also killed at least 358 children as of Aug. 4. The numbers are expected to be higher since they don’t include casualties in the Russian-occupied territories and areas where hostilities are ongoing. Among all of Russia’s atrocities against Ukrainian children, his story has a happy ending. On July 7, he was released.

When his father saw his son getting out of the car in the Ukrainian-controlled area of Zaporizhzhia Oblast, he said he felt that “a piece of his heart returned home.”
There, on the road not far from the Russian-occupied settlements, the two stood for several moments, hugging and crying. His son had made it back home. Although he is safe now, he will never forget the horrors of captivity he endured.
Seeing his son alive and at home with him feels like a personal “victory”.
“Now we need a victory for the country,” the father said.

The reason for posting this story is that we do not forget what is happening in Ukraine and the lives it has affected. Please pray for the children who are caught in the middle of a horrible war. Pray for their safety and release from captivity.

Al Akimoff and the Slavic Ministries Team