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06th Apr 2022

Ukrainian mum says her 4-year-old “angel is in heaven” after frantic river escape

Laura Grainger


A Ukrainian mother whose young son went missing during an attempt to escape Russia’s invasion has shared the heartbreaking news that his body was found.

Fleeing missile strikes and shelling outside Kyiv with his grandmother, 4-year-old Alexander Yakhno (Sasha for short) was the only one wearing a lifejacket on a boat that capsized in the Dnipro river on March 10.

But he was one of six passengers that were nowhere to be seen when the bodies of his 60-year-old paternal grandmother Zoya and another woman were found in the water the next day.

“There were eight people in the boat. They found my mother in law, along with another woman who was with them, the next day along with the boat itself,” Sasha’s mother, Anna Yakhno, told local media at the time.

“The women were dead. There are still six people, including Sasha, who they are searching for. Absolutely everyone is searching. But there are hostilities in the area. There is hope that my boy managed to get to a nearby village, but it is not yet possible to check that.”

The 25-year-old had been desperately looking for her son since, thinking he could be anywhere in Ukraine or Europe. Family raised awareness in the media and online, and border patrol officers were told to keep an eye out in case other refugees had found the boy and helped him to flee.

Yet on Tuesday, nearly a month after Sasha went missing, Anna shared a devastating update: his body was found.

“Today we found Sasha’s body,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “I thank everyone who believed, who helped in the search, thank everyone for your prayers and faith, thank you for your support. Thanks to you, my son met with me.

“Sasha, our little angel is already in heaven! Today his soul found peace,” she finished.

Anna previously told Ukrainian media that her son had been staying with his grandmother when the war began.

“They were in a small village with only two shops and two days after the start of the invasion all the food was gone. The longer they stayed there, the worse it got with supplies and electricity,” she explained.

“The three last days before they decided to escape by boat there was no electricity for three days. We tried to get to them several times, or to get them out by road, but each time we had to turn cars back because of shelling.”

The mum went on to explain that they lost contact with the pair during the chaos, hearing no updates until Zoya’s body was recovered. The family couldn’t even retrieve her body and had to ask local residents to give her a burial.

“I am grateful for everyone’s response and support,” Anna had shared. “Hope and faith are always with us.”