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The organization behind Ukraine's efforts to rescue its children from Russia

Illustration picture shows a symbolic action led by members of Avaaz and Ukrainian refugees with the deposit of thousands of teddy bears and toys representing the thousands of children abducted following the war in Ukraine, at the Rond-point Schuman, in Brussels, Thursday 23 February 2023. BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK (Photo by NICOLAS MAETERLINCK / BELGA MAG / Belga via AFP) (Photo by NICOLAS MAETERLINCK/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)
Illustration picture shows a symbolic action led by members of Avaaz and Ukrainian refugees with the deposit of thousands of teddy bears and toys representing the thousands of children abducted following the war in Ukraine, at the Rond-point Schuman, in Brussels, Thursday 23 February 2023. BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK (Photo by NICOLAS MAETERLINCK / BELGA MAG / Belga via AFP) (Photo by NICOLAS MAETERLINCK/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

An estimated 16,000Ukrainian children have been taken to Russia or Russian-controlled territory since the startof the war. That’saccording to Ukraine’s National Information Bureau. 

Mykola Kuleba has been working tirelessly for the past year tracking down these children’s families, finding where they’re being held, and working to return them back home. He’s the CEO of Save Ukraine. It’s a non-profit organization providing education, humanitarian aid, and support for internally displaced families and children in war zones.

We can see these kids are hugely traumatized. They lived for months in Russia and they were stranded and worried they would never come back to the families or their country. The first minute when they come to Ukraine, they told me they felt freedom and they could breathe a totally different air.

Save Ukraine has been able to recover 96 children who were kept in re-education camps in Russia or in Russian-occupied territories. The process can be extremely lengthy and complicated, at times requiring volunteers to travel thousands of miles through Poland and Belarus. Kuleba estimates the cost of rescuing children and then rehabilitating them for several weeks at their offices in Kyiv can run up to $2,000.

He’s called on the European Union to take more action to support nonprofits financially and organize a special rehabilitation center for children returning to the country.

Copyright 2023 WAMU 88.5

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Chris Remington