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A Ukrainian boy travels 620 miles to safety with a phone number written on his hand

A Ukrainian boy named Hassan, 11, smiles after being welcomed across the border in Slovakia.
Ministry of the Interior of the Slovak Republic
A Ukrainian boy named Hassan, 11, smiles after being welcomed across the border in Slovakia.

An 11-year-old Ukrainian boy named Hassan was treated to a hero's welcome in Slovakia this week when he crossed the border after traveling 1,000 kilometers (roughly 620 miles) alone, fleeing the war with Russia. His mother had sent him to safety, unable to leave herself.

"The boy came all alone with a plastic bag, passport and a telephone number written on his hand," the Slovak Embassy in the U.K. said, in a Facebook posting about Hassan's trek. Officials praised him for "his smile, fearlessness and determination of a real hero."

Interior Minister Roman Mikulec says Hassan and his siblings have asked for temporary protection, posting images showing Mikulec meeting with the boy and other children at a table with snacks and sodas.

"I am very grateful that they saved the life of my child," the boy's mother, Yulia Pisetskaya, said in a video posted to Facebook that was translated by the embassy. She thanked the customs guards and volunteers who took care of her son and made sure he crossed the border safely.

"In your small country, there are people with big hearts," she said.

Pisetskaya, who is widowed, said her town is next to a nuclear power plant that Russian forces have been attacking. She reportedly put her son on a train in southeastern Ukraine, where Russian troops recently assaulted the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.

A phone number was written on Hassan's hand to help him reach relatives.
/ Ministry of the Interior of the Slovak Republic
/
Ministry of the Interior of the Slovak Republic
A phone number was written on Hassan's hand to help him reach relatives.

"I couldn't leave my mother — she can't move on her own," she added.

Just before ending the video, Pisetskaya wept, with her hand over her heart.

Thanks to the number on Hassan's hand, the interior ministry says it was able to contact Hassan's relatives, who came for him after his arrival.


This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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