The story of 10-year-old Ilya Matvienko is, unfortunately, one of the many stories of Mariupol children.
From the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion, he and his mother stayed in their hometown and lived in the basement. One day they ran to their neighbors to escape the shelling. But they didn’t manage to get there safely. That day, the woman suffered a head injury and the boy’s leg was injured. Ilya’s mother, Natalia, practically carried her son to the apartment of their acquaintances alone.
Wounded and exhausted, the boy and the mother lay on the couch and hugged each other. Natalia was hugging her son until her heartbeat stopped. She died in the arms of her son. Then, their acquaintances took the woman’s body, and the next day the Russian military forcibly took the boy to occupied Novoazovsk, and from there – to Donetsk.
Ilya’s leg was fragmented into pieces. The local doctors in the occupied territories considered amputating it but managed to save the limb. Meanwhile, Ilya’s grandmother in Ukraine was looking for all possible ways to get her grandson back. She got custody of the boy and crossed the borders of the four countries to take Ilya back to her.
It so happened that Ilya arrived at Ohmatdyt on his birthday, when he turned 10. The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky came to congratulate the boy on his return in person. Zelensky’s team has put a lot of effort to get Ilya back to Ukraine. Shortly after, according to his grandmother, Ilya had his symbolic second birthday celebration at the hospital – when doctors said that the boy’s leg was fully functional and Ilya would be able to walk.
The boy is already able to move his fingers on the injured leg. He is determined to recover. Illya is happy when the guests visit him, but there’s still sadness in his eyes. What this sincere and kind boy had to go through is unimaginable and unforgivable. He needs long rehabilitation.