I Was a Child Soldier—and I Never Stopped Fighting
When my father joined our country’s fight for freedom from Mother Russia, I ran away from home to join him. Two decades later, I’m back on the front lines, wondering if my own children will ever know a world without war.
Illustrations by Whitney Wong
I woke up expecting to hear my mother’s voice, telling me that dinner was ready. I was cold, so I thought the electricity supply had been cut again, as was the usual in those days. I opened my eyes, but it was so dark in the room I couldn’t tell where I was. I tasted blood in my mouth. Then I remembered: I was in a prison cell, and had been for about a week. I was cold, starving and sore from the gunshot wounds on my head and leg, and from the bruises all over my body. But more painful than the wounds were the memories of horrifying chaos, blood-freezing cries of women, children’s tears, empty looks on the faces of the dead. I was at war. I was only fourteen, and I was a soldier.