Iryna Dmytriyeva posted a video early Thursday of her 4-year-old daughter, Liza, wearing green sneakers and happily pushing a pink stroller, as they strolled through the central Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia. Shortly after, Russian missiles struck.
Ukrainian officials confirmed on Friday that Liza was among 23 people killed in a Russian strike on Thursday that left her mother in critical condition, as social media footage of their lives and final moments captured the global attention and traversed the all-too-familiar rhythm of everyday violence. in the nearly five-month war in Moscow.
Ms Dmytriyeva and her daughter had an appointment that morning with a speech therapist who had taught Liza, who has Down syndrome, how to speak her first words. Shortly after Ms Dmytriyeva posted the video on Instagram, a volley of Russian missiles hit the heart of the city, hitting a shopping mall, a dance studio and a center for children with neurological disorders.
Pictures shared online by the Ukrainian State Emergency Service and verified by The New York Times appeared to show Liza’s lifeless body next to the overturned stroller, which was spattered with blood.
A spokesman for the Ukrainian Security Service in Vinnytsia, Denys Zakabluk, confirmed in a telephone interview that Liza had died.
As Ms Dmytriyeva recovered in a hospital – among 80 people who were treated for injuries in the attack, Ukrainian officials said – her story and connection to her daughter, painstakingly chronicled on her Instagram account, went viral. served as stark reminders of the toll that indiscriminate Russian attacks are exacting on Ukrainian civilians.
Ms Dmytriyeva’s Instagram feed was a running testament to her love for Liza, traced through posts describing milestones, struggles and words of encouragement for other parents.
“You have to educate yourself. The more resources the parents have, the more the child receives,” she wrote in a message the day before the attack. “Realize your own dreams!”
Ms Dmytriyeva moved with Liza from the capital, Kyiv, to Vinnytsia earlier this year, and enrolled her in speech therapy classes at a center called Logoclub. Always smiling, Liza earned the nickname “Sunny Flower” at the center, her therapist, Alyona Korol, said in an interview.
As news of the Russian attack reverberated around the world on Thursday, Ms Korol said she noticed a familiar pair of green trainers in photos from the scene.
“When I saw these shoes, I recognized them,” Ms. Korol said. “I knew it was our Liza.”
Images of the sneakers and stroller, which began circulating on social media within hours of the attack, were held up by Ukrainian leaders as an example of Russia’s disregard for civilian lives.
Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, said in a Posting on Twitter Friday that she recognized Liza from a Christmas video she had shot with children in 2021. “The little girl managed to paint with dye not only herself, her dress, but also all the other kids, me, the cameramen and the director just in half an hour,” she wrote, sharing the video. “Watch it alive please.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his evening speech: “The child was four years old! and accused Russia of a litany of atrocities.
“No other state in the world allows itself to destroy peaceful cities and ordinary human life every day with cruise missiles and artillery rockets,” he said.
Russia has claimed it only strikes places of military value – even though some, like Vinnytsia, are hundreds of kilometers from front lines in eastern and southern Ukraine. In a statement on Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry said it had targeted an office building in Vinnytsia where members of the Ukrainian armed forces were meeting with “representatives of foreign arms suppliers”, adding that the attack resulted in “elimination of conference attendees”. “His account could not be verified.
On Friday, people laid flowers and a teddy bear at the site where Liza was killed. An outpouring of grief swept through social media. A support group that helps connect families of children with Down syndrome posted updates on Ms Dmytriyeva’s condition on Facebook and a link to a fundraiser for the family.
“Today our hearts are bleeding and our eyes are full of tears as our family of several thousand lost one of ‘theirs’,” the post read. “They just ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
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Post expires at 10:05pm on Thursday July 21st, 2022