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He comes from Mariupol, a Ukrainian city. The ravages of war have been experienced as conflict has been going on between Ukraine, Russia, and pro-Russian forces. Nevertheless day-to-day life was relatively normal for this young boy. One day Kolya was playing with his buddies which included 11-year-old Sasha and his 10-year-old brother Serezha, and Kolya’s four-year-old brother Danya. The weather was good out, so the boys got to be outside and run around, doing one of their favorite activities which was going to the military base and trying sneak as close to it as possible. It was a base consisting of old barracks and appeared pretty much empty, but still the boys got enjoyment and thrills out of getting close to it.
On the way they ended up coming across something in the grass. It was a big dark metal object that Kolya picked up and showed his buddies. It was actually a real weapon! An anti-tank missile. Naturally all the kids wanted to hold on to it, but since it was so heavy it would eventually fall from their tiny hands and that’s when everything changed.
The missile ended up exploding on impact.
Since the family lived close by, they had actually heard the explosion go off. Here’s Kolya’s mother’s reaction:
“I heard a loud explosion and ran straight outside. What I saw then — it was horrible. It look like someone had put the children through a meat grinder. Danya was covered in blood. When I picked him, he took two breaths and died. Kolya was on the side of the road. His legs were just shreds of open flesh.”
The kids that did survive the blast were horribly injured. Kolya lost both legs and his right arm, and the little brother died. They were rushed to the hospital and Kolya was induced into a coma since his condition was so critical. When he came out of it, he would be blind in one eye, and was not able to move. He had a hole in his forehead and he was covered with burns.
Alla, the mother, was naturally distraught with sadness as she just lost the younger son and now Koyla was going through this horrible ordeal and she needed to be there for him. But she could not afford the treatment which would save him. Elena Kuneva, an activist from a local aid organization, heard about what was going on and went to the hospital. Here’s what she said in regards to seeing Kolya:
“When I saw him I had to fight off the tears, but I wanted to be strong for him.”
It would be weeks after the incident and Kolya would suffer from post-traumatic depressive anxiety. He couldn’t speak. Meanwhile Elena would spend hours with him and would show him pictures of famous athletes that had handicaps. Eventually she was able to convince him, that life was still worth living despite his condition. New adventures could still be had. The accident wasn’t his fault, she let him know, as he was just a child.
Elena got hold of a Canadian aid organization that works in the Ukraine. They started a fundraising campaign. The 11-year-old boy was able to be sent to Montreal in December of 2015, thanks to the money they had raised.
He would go through a series of exhausting operations, that had to be repeated due to him growing fast at the same time. They tried to prepare a right prosthetic leg while giving him a cornea transplant, which would enable him to see with both eyes.
Next he has to learn how to use his body again. Now being stronger, especially mentally, it would be easier. He already has learned to walk, swim and even run again. He’s playing soccer now and writing and drawing with his left hand.
Kolya became known in Montral and people have been supporting him. The mtoher was moved by their support:
“People were always bringing him sweets and well-wishes. He got clothing and toys. When people learned that Kolya wants to become a programmer, they even bought him a computer.”
He was in Canada for about a year and made a lot of progress. He was well-known and met Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister.
It was November 22, 2016, when Kolya would finally return to the Ukraine. Naturally he was sad to leave due to the generosity he experienced in Canada. But there was a big surprise waiting for him in Mariupol.
Money had been collected by aid workers so that his family could build new home far away from where the accident took place. It will be ready for them to move in next year.
Medical support is still needed and his progression is ongoing. There’s a Facebook page set up for those that want to help the family.
Innocent civilians being the victims of war and all the war-related remnants left behind, is indeed a tragedy. Especially when those civilians are innocent children. The Ukraine conflict began in 2014 and 10,000 lives have been lost. Even though the family was not in a contested area, they still were not safe. Hopefully the conflict will someday end and people won’t have to go through these kinds of tragedies any longer.