Hundreds of Ukrainians were forcibly deported to Russia in early April and thousands more have since followed, Mariupol officials reported, as Russian troops then gained control of eastern Ukraine. Dominika Byela, a Mariupol deportee, fled a Soviet-like refugee camp with her mother and brother to Poland. She shared a traumatic episode when she was playing Lego with Russian boys.
She told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: “Once the boys were playing with Legos and were saying: ‘The Lego man is a Ukrainian soldier, and this one is Russian.’
“And the Russian soldier shoots the Ukrainian.
“We were waiting for the bus back to come one day.
“They said to me: ‘Do you know that you are no longer Ukrainian? You are Russian now.'”
The Russian boys then asked her: “Do you know that Mariupol is now Russia and not Ukraine?”
The little girl retorted: “Is it occupied, but that doesn’t make me Russian.
I was born in Mariupol, Ukraine, so I’m Ukrainian. I didn’t want to live in the country that destroyed my life and took everything away.”
More than half a million Ukrainian civilians have been deported to Russia by Russian forces, Ukraine’s permanent representative to the United Nations claimed in April.