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Ukrainian orphanage trying to keep children safe amid Russian invasion

Posted at 8:44 AM, Mar 03, 2022

The video call goes in and out, but what is clear is that an orphanage in one of the most besieged cities in Ukraine — Kherson — is doing its best to make the children feel safe. All 50 of them. They range in age from 3 to 17 years old.

Vladimir Sagaidak is the man in charge. His daughter, Kate Fateeva, is on the call from a different location in Kherson as she translated.

"They are afraid of war, but they're happy when they are with my father and his colleagues. They are always happy," Fateeva said.

Happy, despite the sunlight blocked out.

"They closed to the windows to be in safe," Fateeva said.

And to prevent light through the windows from attracting the attention of Russian soldiers.

Sagaidak says despite their optimism, he fears her father and the dozens of children in his care are still in danger.

"Yes, of course. All our country is in danger," Sagaidak said through his daughter's translation. "We can't do anything because we are circled by Russian soldiers. We are just blocked and always bombed."

Russian troops began moving on Kherson in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 24, eventually surrounding the southern seaport near the Black Sea. The city has been under constant bombardment since.

Earlier this week, Russia claimed to have taken control of Kherson. However, Ukrainian officials have pushed back on those claims, saying that some parts of the city remain under their control.

In any event, the danger remains real for Sagaidak and his orphanage.

"There are a lot of military Russian machines and two or three kilometers there are rockets," Sagaidak said.

Sagaidak says he and two teachers are the only ones looking after all the children.

"Because the rest couldn't get to work because of army, war," Sagaidak said.

Fateeva, now speaking for herself, said that with the Russian advance on the city, there's no way to escape.

"I know that a lot of father's foreign friends want them — to take these children to Poland, to Italy, to America," she said. "It's very dangerous because they may be killed, really."

Sagaidak says, at the sound of explosions, he moves the children down to the orphanage's basement. He says he never thought tensions would ever escalate to this level.

"We didn't expect it would be so aggressive," he said.

When asked if there's anything people around the world could do to help the orphanage, Sagaidak's answer was simple: Peace.

Peace, for children without parents in a city under siege.

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