The most tragic aspect of tragedy is how frequently it strikes without warning, drastically altering people’s lives. A Ukrainian family experienced a similar occurrence that completely upended their existence. A child volunteered to take care of his siblings in the midst of the devastation and grief.
In Verhnyotoretske, Donetsk, Ukraine, Vyacheslav “Slava” Yalov resided with his mom Maryna and four younger siblings. He was the oldest of his four siblings—Danylo, Nicole, Timur, and Olivia—two brothers and two sisters, and he adored them with all of his heart and soul.
They were a content family who cherished their native land and derived strength from their strong bond. Slava praised his mom as a diligent, intelligent, and compassionate woman who instilled in her kids the value of helping others, maintained a spotless home, and enjoyed creating delectable meals.
A Hard-Working Youngster
Slava stated that he was comfortable in his role as the older brother ever since he was a little child. This in turn caused him to want to become independent, support his family, and stop depending on his mother.
After that, Slava started working at the young age of 12, taking on painting, cleaning, and building projects to lend a hand and aid his mother as much as he could. “You can do many things; the main thing is to have the desire,” he said.
Making Friends and Assisting His Mom
Although his mother objected to her son working hard at such a young age, Slava loved the idea of making money and giving it to his family. He loved assisting his mom, though, and wanted to be a great role model for his siblings.
Slava said that while working as an animator at entertainment events, he had the opportunity to travel over Ukraine and make many new acquaintances from other regions. Even his mother Maryna’s job at the youth center was enjoyable to him.
The Day That Everything Changed
Slava’s mother’s passion project was creating the lovely garden at the family home. The six-person family was living a happy life and cherished their modest sanctuary dearly until an unspeakable tragedy unexpectedly shattered everything.
Many Ukrainians lost their homes, loved ones, and all they held dear as Russia invaded their country in February 2022; Slava’s family was not an exception. The small boy went grocery shopping with his mother one day in March, but when he came back, he was broken.
Lost his mother
As they walked home together, Slava said his cherished mother perished as a result of the bombardment. Long after he had seen the catastrophe, the tragic scene kept playing in front of his eyes. The 18-year-old boy choked as he described what happened:
“She died in my arms. I tried to save her, but …”
Slava was unharmed and said that he miraculously escaped, but he was unable to save his mother due of her deadly injuries. She said, “I’m fine,” to her son before shutting her eyes and passing away in his arms. She was just 37.
Going Home Alone to His Brothers and Sisters
The adolescent said that because he couldn’t believe what had happened, he spent a considerable amount of time sitting with his mother. He finally worked up the courage to return home, but he found it difficult to resolve one persistent question:
“What was I supposed to say to the children?”
His younger siblings, whom he referred to as “his children,” emerged when he arrived at the house, and when they saw him by himself, they understood everything. Nicole, his younger sister, questioned him about whether or not their mother might have been saved, but he was at a loss for words.
Slava and his siblings thus suffered the loss of their mother and their house as a result of the conflict. Maryna was an orphan, and the kids had no family, so they had no one to take care of them.
Departing from Home and Seeking Safety
After great deliberation, Slava made the decision to leave Donetsk with his siblings. He was all they had, and he loved them too much to turn his back on them, so he knew he had to stand up for them. Slava, who is 18 years old, decided to take care of his four siblings.
Slava was able to transport his brothers and sisters to the Lviv region of western Ukraine with the aid of a few trustworthy acquaintances. They started residing in a Drohobych residential flat after a number of volunteers gathered money to furnish and provide them with a place to call home. Slava said:
“Of course, we miss her. How could we not? We try to just pray for her, that’s all. She gives me strength. She gives the children strength.”
Taking on the role of their guardian and wishing them the best
Slava issued guardianship to assume custody of his siblings in order to prevent their placement in orphanages. Although the war took everything from him, he still managed to find strength, hope, and light in the midst of the turmoil, darkness, and despair to carry on for his family. He revealed:
“I want them to have a childhood. I don’t want them to stop being active. I want them to evolve, to have an exciting future. I know I can do this.”
Missing his mother while watching his siblings
The kids started going to the neighborhood school because of Slava’s efforts. He cleaned their tiny flat, cooked dinner, and assisted the kids with their homework in the meanwhile. Slava, who wanted to finish his school and pursue a career in medicine, stated, “At the same time, I work on one project and study.”
Slava had faith that his mother was supporting him at every turn and keeping them all afloat. “My mother was everything to me. We were very close to her. Everything good in me is from my mother,” he added.
The little Ukrainian boy, as if taking on the roles of father and mother to his siblings weren’t enough, also established a fund to aid refugees and children who lost everything due to the conflict. Slava claimed that he chose the term “Yalov—I love Ukraine” as the foundation’s name.
Slava’s warmth, love, and compassion—not just for his brothers, but also for others who are just like him—have us in amazement. We, along with many others, pray for the region to experience peace and prosperity. Please share your thoughts on Facebook to show this young guy your love and support.