Tatyana and Lilija Vlajko
In late December, Tatiana discovered Save Ukraine and requested assistance. It took a month to plan the repatriation journey. At the end of January, a group of parents embarked on a lengthy trip to reunite with their children after months of separation. They traveled from Kyiv to Poland, then through Belarus, Latvia, and russia, before reaching occupied Crimea. On January 27, they arrived in Yevpatoria.
The journey back to Ukraine took about a week. At the russian border, border guards in Crimea refused to let the bus with the children through. They had to get home through Latvia. The bus got through there without any problems.
Lilia was forced to stay with the russians for 112 days: from October 7, 2022, to January 27. Now, the entire family is staying at one of the Save Ukraine Hope and Healing Centers, recovering from the deeply traumatizing experience.
Prior to the russian invasion, Tatiana Vlaiko lived in the village of Oleksandrіvka, 40 kilometers from Kherson in southern Ukraine. She was working as a cheese molder, raising a 19-year-old son with a disability and a 13-year-old daughter, Lilia. Now, not a single house in Oleksandrivka survived the hostilities.
Tatyana and her children had to flee their village and “move to Kherson on a tank with two bags of clothes” after the russian military bombed their house out.
While the family stayed in occupied Kherson, Lilia was sent to a "recreation camp" in Yevpatoria, Crimea, along with many other children. Like other parents of deported children, Tatiana was given no time to think and no choice. Just 11 days after Lilia was taken to Crimea, the russians announced an “evacuation”, aka a forced displacement of civilians from Kherson, fearing a Ukrainian counteroffensive. Tatiana realized she could no longer bring her daughter back.