VINNYTSIA, Ukraine (AP) — Liza, a 4-year-old girl with Down syndrome, was on her way to see a speech therapist with her mother in central Ukraine when a Russian missile fell from the sky.
She never made it to the appointment. Today, the images that tell the story of his life and his end touch the hearts of the whole world.
Dressed in a blue denim jacket with flowers, Liza was among 23 people killed, including boys aged 7 and 8, in Thursday’s missile attack in Vinnytsia. His mother, Iryna Dmytrieva, was among dozens injured.
After the explosion, mother and daughter went in different directions. Iryna, 33, entered the intensive care unit of a hospital while Liza went to the morgue.
“She remembered that she was looking for her daughter, and Liza was already dead,” Iryna’s aunt, Tetiana Dmytrysyna, told The Associated Press on Friday. “The mother was stripped of the most precious thing she had.”
Shortly before the explosion, Dmytrieva had posted a video on social media showing her daughter struggling to reach the handlebars to push her own stroller, walking happily through Vinnytsia, wearing the denim jacket and white pants, hair adorned with a hair clip. Another video on social media showed the little girl twirling in a lavender dress in a field of lavender.
After the Russian missile attack, Ukrainian emergency services shared photos showing her lifeless body on the ground next to her bloodstained stroller. Videos and photos have gone viral, the latest images and stories from Ukraine’s brutal war to horrify the world.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s wife posted that she met this “wonderful girl” while filming a Christmas video with a group of children who were given oversized decorations to paint.
“The mischievous little girl then managed in half an hour to paint not only herself, her holiday dress, but also all the other children, me, the cameramen and the director… Look at her alive, if please,” wrote Olena Zelenska. in a note accompanying the video.
When war broke out, Dmytrieva and her family fled Kyiv, the capital, for Vinnytsia, a town 268 kilometers (167 miles) to the southwest. Until Thursday, Vinnytsia was considered relatively safe.
Dmytrieva gave birth to her only daughter at the age of 29. The girl was born with a heart defect but the doctors saved her. She also suffered from Down syndrome.
“Liza was a sunny baby,” remembers her great-aunt. “They say these children don’t understand or know how to do everything. But that’s not true. She was a very bright child. She could draw, spoke, always helped the adults and always smiled. Always good mood.”
For her mother, Liza was the greatest gift of her life.
“She loved him infinitely,” said the great-aunt.
The site of the explosion is now cordoned off. People come to lay flowers, candles and teddy bears. Another element of a makeshift shrine is a page from a children’s course book. Among the mourners are mothers deeply affected by the story of Iryna and Liza Dmytrieva.
“Innocent children are dying,” said Kateryna Kondratyuk, breaking down in tears at the scene of the explosion.
Meanwhile, Iryna is conscious and in intensive care.
“She is a fighter. She will come out. We are all praying for her,” her aunt said.
Liza’s father was at the morgue on Friday, filling out the paperwork to receive his daughter’s body for burial.
Andrew Katell in New York contributed.
Follow all of AP’s stories on developments in the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.
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