An 11-year-old boy braved a 600-mile journey from southeastern Ukraine to the Slovakian border all by himself with only a plastic bag, passport, and telephone number scribbled on his hand.
His mother had to stay back in Zaporizhzhia, where Russian troops attacked a power plant last week, but volunteers at the border were able to contact his loved ones in Slovakia thanks to a written note and the phone number.
The ‘hero’ was praised for his ‘smile, fearlessness and determination’ in a statement from the Slovakian Interior Ministry.
The post on its Facebook page added: ‘Volunteers took care of him, took him warm and provided him with food and drink, which they packed for the next trip.
‘Thanks to the number on his hand and a piece of paper in his waist, he managed to contact his loved ones, who came for him later, and the whole story ended well.’
Local reports suggest the boy’s mother had to stay back in Ukraine in order to take care of a sick relative.
Hours after the boy – whose relatives in Bratislava were contacted – reached safety, his mother Júlia Pisecká explained that her son was able to reach the border by train, in a video shared in a Facebook post by the Police of the Slovak Republic.
In the clip she added: ‘I am a widow and I have more children. I want to thank the Slovak customs and volunteers who took care of my son and helped him cross the border.
‘I am grateful you have saved my child’s life. Next to my town is a nuclear power plant that the Russians are shooting at.
‘I couldn’t leave my mother, she can’t move on her own.
‘People with a big heart live in your small country.’
Local reports suggest the 11-year-old’s siblings have also made it to Slovakia.
The post also urged those who want to help the boy’s mother and grandmother ‘who can’t get out of Ukraine’ to contact the Association of Christian Youth Fellowships at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Russian troops had attacked the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is the largest in Europe and creates around 20 per cent of Ukraine’s electricity, in the early hours of Friday, with CCTV capturing a fierce gun battle between Putin’s men and Ukrainian defenders that sparked a fire in a six-storey training building just outside the main complex.
Moscow’s men then stopped firefighters getting to the building for several hours.