According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 10 million people have fled their homes in Ukraine since Russia invaded the sovereign nation. This accounts for nearly a quarter of Ukraine's population. Of the 10 million, 6.5 million are displaced within their own country and 4 million have crossed borders into neighboring nations in search of safety. Despite the terror and uncertainty that each person is surely facing, there are stories of hope sprinkled in that offer a glimmer of relief and hopefulness. One such story involves an 11-year-old boy from Ukraine named Hassan Al-Khalaf. He has captivated the hearts of many and has been hailed a hero after fleeing his war-torn country—on his own.
Al-Khalaf traveled about 620 miles by train across the map of Ukraine with only a plastic bag, a passport, and a telephone number written on his hand. His family was living in Zaporizhzhia, the site of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which recently came under attack from Russian troops. Yulia Pisetskaya, the boy’s mother, had no choice but to send her beautiful boy on a train to Slovakia amid the continuing destruction of the country by Russian forces. She herself had to stay behind to care for her elderly mother.
Like a real hero, Al-Khalaf had to get through one of the most difficult experiences of his life with a smile. On reaching the border, the boy's tender expressions, fearlessness, and determination won over the officials who helped him cross the border into Slovakia. They contacted his relatives in the country using the phone number written on his hand. Once the boy safely crossed over the border, Slovak authorities and volunteers kept him warm and provided him with food and water. “I was very scare,” Al-Khalaf admits. “I felt horrible. I really wanted to cry because I have always been with my mom, and this was the first time I had to go away from her.” The boy was soon reunited with his four older siblings in Slovakia. Although relieved to have their little brother safe and with them, they were still concerned about their mother.
“I could not leave my mother. She is 84 and not mobile, thus I put my son on the train to go to the Slovakian border where he was met by the people with big hearts,” Pisetskaya says in a video posted to Facebook. “I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all of the Slovakian border guards and volunteers of Slovakia who sheltered my child.”
Although Al-Khalaf had shown tremendous courage, he did go through some hardships along the way. Discussing the scariest part of his journey on Good Morning Britain, his sister translated that he found the train ride to be frightening as the carts were very full with around 300 people in each. “The kids and the people were sitting in the hall and everyone was talking in foreign languages and he wasn’t understanding so that was the scariest bit for him,” she explains. However scared, the brave boy remained calm and focused on the goal at hand.
Now, Al-Khalaf has since been reunited with his mother. The growing threat of the war convinced Pisetskaya to at least try to escape with her mother and their small family dog. “The train ride was very difficult,” Pisetskaya also says. “Hundreds were crammed in a single car. But we had to escape so our family could be back together.” Even though the family had lost everything, Pisetskaya is looking on the bright side and is enjoying having her family back together.
Now, the young boy has become a compelling symbol of Ukrainian bravery. Al-Khalaf and the rest of his family—including their dog—have escaped the dangers of war. The Slovak Republic's official Facebook page shared images of the children reunited with their mother, offering a heartwarming reunion for this family after such a long and challenging journey amid fleeing their war-torn country.
11-year-old Hassan Al-Khalaf had to flee Ukraine by himself as his mother stayed behind to keep his grandmother safe.
He had to travel 600 miles Luckily, he and his mother were reunited in Slovakia.
His other siblings also joined in the heartwarming reunion after an unpleasant escape across borders.
The reunion also included the family dog!
Here’s a video of the heartwarming family reunion:
h/t: [Bored Panda]