The Obedinsky family was torn apart by this war. Kira’s father, Yevhen Obedinsky, the former captain of the Ukrainian national water polo team, was killed on March 17 when Russian forces bombed the city. At that moment, Kira became an orphan, since her mother died when Kira was two weeks old.
Days after her father’s death, Russian-speaking soldiers take Kira to a hospital in the Donetsk region after she was wounded by a landmine while trying to escape from Mariupol with her father’s girlfriend.
“The [Russian] The army came running, stopped two cars and took us to Manhoush, to the hospital because we were bleeding. Then they transferred us from Manush to another hospital in Donetsk. ”
Speaking to CNN earlier this month from Kyiv, Oleksandr told CNN he feared never seeing his granddaughter again because it was nearly impossible to travel across the war-torn country to get her back. He said he spoke to the hospital where Kira was being treated and was told she would eventually be sent to an orphanage in Russia.
Their grateful reunion, more than a month after they last met each other, was orchestrated by negotiators from Ukraine and Russia – and guaranteed an epic international trip.
On Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Kira at the hospital to celebrate her return and also gave her an iPad to keep her entertained while she recovered.
Oleksandr said he told Zelensky that Kira was “tired but happy” and thanked him for his granddaughter’s safe return. “No one believed it [it would be possible]. But thank God we were able to do so.”
Reclaiming Kera from territory controlled by Moscow-backed separatists was not an easy task. After media coverage of her ordeal, the Ukrainian government told her grandfather that they had reached an agreement allowing him to travel to Donetsk to pick up his granddaughter – but that wouldn’t be an easy task.
Undeterred, Oleksandr immediately embarked on a grueling four-day journey, taking a train to Poland, a trip to Turkey, and a second trip to Moscow, followed by a train trip to the southern Russian city of Rostov, before that. He finally arrived at Kira in tears after another drive to Donetsk, he said.
After a passionate reunion—with countless tight hugs, they said—the couple set off for home, taking the same lengthy route back to Kyiv.
“I missed him”
At Akhmatdet Hospital in Kyiv, Kira cherishes the property her father was able to keep after his death: his mobile phone. Her only link was with her family while she was in Donetsk.
She said she contacted Oleksandr – her only blood relative – by logging into Instagram and texting her grandfather’s friend to explain where she ended up. Instagram posts from February showed Kira innocently posing for selfies, happily unaware of how life would turn upside down in just a matter of weeks.
Having this bond with her past life was crucial for the young girl as she found herself in a Donetsk hospital surrounded by unfamiliar faces and yearning for her grandfather.
Kira sighs, “I was so glad I could call them. I don’t know how long it was,” adding, “I waited so long for them to pick me up. Even in the second hospital, I waited…I missed him.”
Oleksander said the couple reunited on April 23, after they last met on March 10. Government assistance.
“I wouldn’t have dared to do it myself, of course,” Oleksandr said. “Because this project could have ended without my release, nor the release of Kira.”
While in Donetsk, Kira was interviewed by a Russian state media channel, in which she broadcast a video clip of the little girl talking happily about how she was sometimes allowed to call her grandfather. The interview was used as “evidence” that she was not kidnapped, according to a Russian TV presenter. However, Kira paints a very different picture of her experience.
“It’s a bad hospital out there,” she told CNN. “The food there is lousy, the nurses scream and the hospital is not good.”
Weeks later, Kira recovered from some of her injuries but remembers in pain when a shrapnel was removed from her body.
“I was taken to Donetsk by ambulance at night, they took shrapnel from me at night. From my ear. I screamed and cried a lot because I could feel their manipulation in my ear. Here it was on my face, on my neck, and on my legs.”
Hiding in the ruins of Mariupol
Now safely in Kyiv, Kira is also able to reveal exactly what happened in Mariupol and how the family’s luck ran out when they tried to escape from the city that was quickly encircled by Russian forces.
She tells that she lives amid the bombing and “loud explosions”, hiding with her father’s friend Anya and her children among the destroyed walls of their house. The tanks rushed into the street, Kira said, and she remembers seeing men in uniform approaching their yard.
Kira says that after her home was bombed on March 16, the family was trapped in the basement, where neighbors helped pull them out from under the rubble. Her father never showed up. For three days, Kira, along with her father’s friend and children, sought shelter in another basement before attempting a fateful escape from the city.
It was Kira’s girlfriend who kicked a mine while jogging, she says. Kira remembers that her ears were bleeding afterward and that the family’s friend’s dog absorbed most of the blast. The group survived but was hit by shrapnel.
This happened when Russian forces – alerting the whereabouts of the group to the explosion – picked up the group and took them to the town of Manchu for immediate treatment in a hospital, then to another hospital in Donetsk in an ambulance, where the group was forced to defect, leaving Kira alone, Kira said. wounded and terrified while the others were taken to another location.
This ordeal is a far cry from Kira now that she plays games on her new iPad while she talks candidly about downloading more apps to play music, and expresses her happiness to meet soon with her grandfather’s friend.
As the family begins the process of returning to some semblance of normalcy, the fact that they are, for great comfort, together again is not lost on them.
“I still can’t believe it finally happened,” Oleksandr said. “Because we believed it, but many said it was impossible. It was a really difficult process.”
They say the president’s efforts in their case have stunned them – an issue that has received worldwide attention.
But for Zelensky, Kira is just one of the many Ukrainian children he says were deliberately deported to Russian-controlled areas. Meanwhile, Moscow has denounced the allegations of forced deportations as lies, alleging that Ukraine impeded its efforts to “evacuate” people to Russia.
“We are very concerned about the children,” Zelensky said while visiting Kira on Tuesday. “Children are our future. We will fight for every Ukrainian child to return home.”