A 12-year-old orphan from Mariupol, who ended up in Russian-controlled Donetsk after being injured in a blast that killed her father, has been discharged from a children’s hospital in Kyiv to start a new life after being reunited with her grandfather.
It is, perhaps, the end of the beginning of the suffering Kira Obedinsky has endured over the last two months. Before leaving the hospital on Tuesday, she was visited by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who gave her an iPad.
It was a moment, said Alexsandr Obedinsky, 67, that his young granddaughter will treasure for ever. “She couldn’t believe it was happening to her. All of us need positive emotions now, and so does Kira.”
Much of Kira’s life in the last two months has been barely believable.
In the early weeks of Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation”, Kira had been sheltering with her father, Evgeny, and his partner, Anya, and her children, in the basement of a neighbour’s house in Mariupol.
The building was hit directly, and while Kira and the others were dragged from the rubble by rescuers, Evgeny did not survive, leaving the young girl, whose mother died two weeks after her birth, an orphan.
In the days after, Anya decided she had to try to get Kira and the other children out of Mariupol, but as the group walked through the debris of the shattered city, one of them stood on a mine.
In the subsequent chaos, Kira ended up in the hands of Russian soldiers who took her, bleeding from shrapnel wounds to the face and body, to Donetsk’s regional hospital in a separatist-controlled part of the Donbas region.
In the coming weeks, Kira even featured on Russian state television as an example of a Ukrainian civilian who was being well treated.
Alexsandr received a video call from her that provided relief, but also anxiety, as reports were emerging of Ukrainian civilians being forcibly taken to Russia.
The Guardian highlighted Kira’s plight in early April and a week later Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk called Alexsandr on his mobile phone.
“I mean, I was trying hard, searching for someone who could help me, Ukrainian authorities and everyone I could reach,” Alexsandr said. “I knocked on all doors, the Red Cross, our government, anyone.”
He went on: “Iryna Vereshchuk called me on 15 April and told me it was possible to get Kira back, but to do so I had to go to Donetsk. She asked if I was ready to do it, with safety guarantees from President Zelenskiy. I said I was ready and they took me.”
Alexsandr arrived in Kyiv on 17 April to discuss logistics. “Then we went to Poland, from Poland to Turkey, from Turkey to Rostov in Russia and then from Rostov to Donetsk People’s Republic, I mean, to Donetsk,” he said. “We spent the night there and in the morning they took me to meet Kira. There was another woman with me. She also came to take back her grandson.”
Recalling the moment he saw Kira, looking healthy in jeans and a sweater, Alexsandr said: “We were very emotional, both of us.”
The reunited pair took the same route back to Kyiv, arriving on 26 April. Kira was then admitted to Ohmatdyt children’s hospital where Zelenskiy made a surprise visit and gave her his gift.
Alexsandr has not talked to Kira about the death of her father. “She doesn’t like taking about that, and I also don’t want to discuss unnecessarily,” he said. “Psychotherapists are working with her. She is OK considering what she lived through.”
For now, the future is the focus. “Yes, I adopted her and I’m her official guardian now, so she’ll live with me, we’ll be together,” Alexsandr said. “We’ll stay in Chernivtsi [a city in south-western Ukraine] for now, and I don’t know what [the] future holds for us. We’ll see how life turns out.”