As stories of unimaginable horror continue to emerge out of Ukraine, another story is also being told, via scribblings on the nation's children. Last week, Anastasiia Lapatina, a journalist with the Kyiv Independent media outlet, posted a photo of a toddler, naked save for the diaper she was wearing, and the image soon went viral—not because of the little girl's cuteness (she was seen only from behind), but because on her bare back, in permanent marker, was scrawled contact information in case her parents became separated from her or killed during the Russian invasion. Mom Oleksandra "Sasha" Makoviy said she wrote the info on 2-year-old Vira "with my hands trembling very much," noting in her original Instagram post that she'd taken the photo on the first day of the war in February.
Worried that no one would know who Vira was if something happened to herself or her husband, she inked the little girl's name, along with her date of birth and the family's phone numbers, on Vira's skin, with the toddler thinking the whole time they were playing a game, reports the New York Times. Today notes that Makoviy also created a card with contact info for her daughter's grandparents. After hundreds of thousands of people saw Makoviy's photo, some accused her of staging it, per the Times. But Makoviy, a 33-year-old painter and art teacher, says she felt it necessary to share the "madness" that Ukrainian families are enduring, and other Ukrainian parents reached out after seeing her picture to say they'd done the same with their kids.
The plight of these families and their crude contact-info lists have even caught the attention of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who spoke of it while addressing Spanish lawmakers last week. "Just imagine this: Mothers in Ukraine write on the backs of their young children," he said. As for Makoviy and her family, who lived in Kyiv before the invasion, they found safety in the south of France after a perilous journey west. But while she says she's happy Vira is too young to really know what's going on, she thinks she's still picking up on the family's anxiety. "The first week of the war, every day she asked if she could go home," Makoviy tells Today. "She doesn't talk much because she's little and just learning how to speak, but she would ask, 'Home? Home?' when we first left. It was heartbreaking." Makoviy says she doesn't know when, or even if, they'll return to Kyiv. (Read more Ukraine stories.)