A boy from Zaporizhzhia, in southeast Ukraine, has been hailed as a hero by Slovakian authorities who said that he had crossed the border into Slovakia from Ukraine by himself on Friday night, a distance of more than 700 miles.
“With one plastic bag, passport and phone number written on his hand, he came completely alone because his parents had to stay in Ukraine,” the Slovakian Ministry of Interior said in a Facebook post Saturday, according to a translation.
The ministry said the boy was looked after by volunteers.
“He gained all of them with his smile, fearlessness and determination, worthy of a true hero,” it said.
And, thanks to the phone number on his hand, authorities were able to contact his relatives in the capital, Bratislava, who came to collect him.
His mother, identified by authorities as Yulia Pisetskaya, said in a video posted on Facebook that she had put her son on a train to Slovakia out of desperation. Zaporizhzhia is home to the nuclear plant that was taken over by Russian forces on Saturday.
She said she was unable to leave with her son because she couldn’t leave her mother behind, Britain’s Slovak Embassy wrote in its translation of her video.
“I am a widow and I have more children,” Pisetskaya said, according to the embassy. “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.”
Russian troops attacked the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, in the early hours of Friday. They later took control of the facility.
The United Nations estimates that more than 1.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion, with hundreds of thousands pouring into neighboring Poland, Romania, Slovakia and elsewhere.