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On the death of 6-year-old Eli, or is it possible to evacuate children without parental consent

January 28, 2023, 14:15 294 Author: Valeria Chepurko kp.ua Elya from Avdiivka died, unable to withstand the roar of shelling.

On the death of 6-year-old Eli

Foto: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Children's hearts are torn from explosions. Literally. 6-year-old Elya from Avdiivka died, unable to withstand the roar of shelling, and later it became known that the same fate befell 3-year-old Rostislav Prisyazhny from Ochakov. We do not know how many children right now are dying of fear and despair in their houses, shelled by the enemy, in dark cold basements. But we know that everyone wants to be hugged and taken to a safe place. Volunteers beg parents to leave the war zone with their children, and they cling to the house, to their usual life, to the ghostly hopes that the horror is about to end.

When volunteer Vlad Makhovsky told how Eli’s grandparents refused him to leave three times for the sake of a girl from Avdiivka, Ukraine was filled not only with pity, but also with anger. Again, the question arose that children should be rescued from the danger zone, even if their parents or guardians refused.

Many people think this is fair, but is it possible to do this?

"I offer free accommodation, but they still refuse to go"

Vlad Makhovsky has been involved in evacuations for a long time and is very worried about the fate of families with children.

– I remember another story from Avdiivka. On the shelled outskirts of the city lived a mother with a child and a grandmother. Several times he came to them, persuaded them to leave, and this way and that - they don’t want to. Finally, I see that the child's mother is already in doubt, she took my phone. But it turned out that it was too late. Soon the shelling again, and the woman died, did not have time to run to the shelter. Only after that did the grandmother evacuate with her granddaughter. This girl survived, but was left an orphan.

Vlad says that taking and tearing a child out of the hands of his mother, father and beloved grandfather is a huge trauma. But he does not know what is better - to survive this pain or to be subjected to death.

- I can see in their eyes that children are constantly in a state of fear. They see little light, live in the darkness of basements, do not even study remotely, cannot play calmly. And adults proceed from the considerations that the place is inhabited, the neighboring store is working, volunteers bring help, therefore, you can somehow live.

The volunteer notes that there are families who left earlier, and now they are returning to the shelled cities, because they could not get settled in the evacuation.

– This negative experience also has its impact. But I don't suggest leaving just like that. I say that I have a house, an apartment in Zaporozhye. This is not absolute security, but still better than the same Avdiivka. You will be provided with free housing, you will not even have to pay a communal apartment. I will help with food. I have friends and acquaintances who call on the phone and say that they are ready to receive migrants and also for free. I explain all this, show it, but ... they still refuse to leave, they keep their children near them, ”Vlad states.

On the death of 6-year-old Eli

Vlad Makhovsky sincerely misses Elea, whom he wanted so much, but could not save. Photo: facebook.com/Vlad Makhovsky

"We lost dozens of angels, although we could save"

One of the first to respond to Eli's death was the head of the Lugansk regional state administration, Sergei Gaidai.

- I remember our children from Privolye - two in place and a girl in the hospital. They didn't have time to run to the shelter...

Lysychansk. It flew into the house. Two childrenvery small. The pictures I got from the hospital are hard to forget... We lost dozens of angels, although we could have saved them if we had taken them to safety in time!.. We can't take the children by force, but... maybe we should.

Users of social networks are asking a more radical question: to deprive of parental rights for refusing to evacuate, to prosecute under the criminal article "Leaving in danger." And the refusal of grandparents is simply not to be considered, because they are not parents and not official guardians.

Head of the Save Ukraine, Former Children's Ombudsman Mykola Kuleba reminds that this is not a problem of today:

On the death of 6-year-old Eli

Nikolai Kuleba. Photo: facebook.com/KulebaMykola

– I remember the first shelling of Mariupol in 2014. Then for the first time they started talking about the removal of all children from the city. Even people's deputies came to me and asked. I said that this is a matter of parental responsibility. And if we want to empower state bodies, this should be done at the level of law. Make a bill, vote in parliament, then we can act.

According to Nikolai Kuleba, now the problem has become emotionally heated, but no solution has been found.

- All legislation under which state bodies operate concerns peacetime. And what to do in a situation where government agencies are generally inactive in a combat zone? I myself can give many examples when my volunteers call in despair, they say that children are under shells here, their parents are unconscious because of this war, they are closed, they don’t listen to anything. Who should make the decision? If the volunteers take responsibility and take the children out, they will become criminals, kidnappers.

“In the convention documents: there can be no forced evacuation”

Meanwhile, an attempt to solve the problem has already been made. Last August, the Cabinet of Ministers supported the initiative of the Ministry of Reintegration, which stated that families, foster care, family-type orphanages could lose the right to take care of children if they put them at great risk and refuse mandatory evacuation. However, the document turned out to be stillborn.

On the death of 6-year-old Eli

Lyudmila Volynets. Photo: facebook.com/Lyudmila Volinets

- There is a resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers on mandatory evacuation from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, says Lyudmila Volynets, an expert on children's rights. - But in general, you need to understand that in all conventional documents on the war it is written: there can be no forced evacuation. And children do not stand out in a separate category. The state can remove a child from the family if the parents are alcoholics, drug addicts, do not care, do not feed him, keep him in unsanitary conditions. However, not because of the war.

"This is such a psychological state of being stuck"

The human rights activist shares the feelings that people experience when it comes to children in the war zone. But he does not support the idea of forced evacuation.

- Believe me, more than one meeting at the highest state level has been held on this issue. First position - let's pick up. Okay, let's. How? We a priori proceed from the fact that it is dangerous for a child here, but it will be better there, even without parents. But after all, the convention documents were not written because someone thought so. Serious studies have been conducted, including on the consequences, which can be much more severe.

Lyudmila Volynets notes that it is impossible to compare the refusal to evacuate with a careless or criminal attitude towards a child.

- We recently held a meeting with juvenile police officers who monitor the situation on the ground. Children are well-groomed, fed, parents take care of them, but they are not able to move. And it's not just about organizational issues or old people bedridden. Volunteers tell where they will take the family, promise to send an ambulance for grandparents. And people don't agree. Even when the house is no longer there, they remain in place. This is such a psychological state of rigor, when you are not able to make important decisions. And we will still punish these people by taking the child? No, you need to use the resource of persuasion to the last.

"Suffering can be worse than death"

According to the expert, there is still a lot of Soviet stuff left in our minds.

- Let's pick up, let's take out. And any practice of forced displacement never gave the desired result. Some tragedies were replaced by other tragedies, reminds Lyudmila Volynets. - And why do we strive to keep only a child who is 6 years old, and not keep a mother who is 34 years old? A woman can still give birth, and more than once. It is not in vain that when a doctor in charge of childbirth has a choice of whom to save: a woman or her child, the decision is made in favor of the woman. For she will give birth again. It is a cruel choice, but society cannot ignore a population that is able to work and reproduce.

Regarding the grandparents who took care of 6-year-old Ela and who are now accused of her death, the human rights activist also has her own opinion.

- We can't look at older people as insolvent guardians. Grandparents have the right to raise their grandchildren. When it comes to the death of a child, yes, we condemn them. But we are completely calm about when the same old people took responsibility for the evacuation of their grandchildren. Half of our children were saved by grandparents.

The human rights activist admits that she does not know the unequivocal answer to the questions posed.

- We live in a time when death has become the most common occurrence. But this does not mean that for the sake of protection from death, we must subject the child to suffering from separation from relatives, and this can be worse than death.

"Temporarily withdrawn", "forcibly relocated" - such terms are impossible in the law

According to Oleksiy Lazarenko, vice-president of the All-Ukrainian Fund "Protection of Children's Rights", the discussion does not make sense, because it has no practical solution.

On the death of 6-year-old Eli

Alexey Lazarenko. Photo: facebook.com/Aleksey Lazarenko

- No state has the right to interfere in the private life of citizens just because it thinks it will be better. This is what the European Convention on Human Rights says. But it's not only that. Where to place forcibly evacuated children? We have a shortage of parents-educators, few foster families, foster (temporary) families are not prepared. I'm not saying that most of these institutions are now in Europe. Who will take someone else's child across the country and abroad, what documents can he have?

The expert notes that in order to be placed in a foster family or a family-type home, a child must have the status of an orphan or be deprived of parental care.

- What status can children separated from their parents have - "temporarily withdrawn", "forcibly relocated"? Such determination are impossible in any law. In state institutions, funds allocated from the budget are spent on the child. Under what article should they be taken for children whose parents are not deprived of their rights? Who will be authorized to be responsible for the life and health of the child? When parents send their son or daughter to a health camp, they personally - in writing - assign responsibility to the administration of the institution. Who will be charged in this case, even if there is an agreement to part with the child?

An emotional answer to a painful question is easy to find, the children's human rights activist notes, in reality everything is not so. Now in Ukraine there is no single state body that would be responsible for children. After decentralization, the services for children's affairs became bodies of local self-government.

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