This is the heartbreaking video that shows a four-year-old Ukrainian Sasha celebrating his birthday – just a week before his tragic death.
Sasha Zdanovych disappeared from Ukraine on a boat that capsized while trying desperately to escape Russia’s carnage.
His heartbroken mother, Anna Yakhno, spent 26 days not knowing if her son was still alive.
The last photo of him showed little Sasha blowing out the candles on his cake for his fourth birthday.
The 25-year-old told The Sun “the world must never forget Sasha’s name or whoever is responsible”.
Sasha was staying with his grandmother Zoya, 59, when Putin launched his bloodbath invasion on February 24.
Zoya’s home, 30 miles north of Kyiv, was cut off within days as thousands of Russian troops rushed south from neighboring Belarus.
She had no electricity, heating, or running water, and she and Sasha moved in with neighbors “because they were afraid of being alone.”
Anna said: “He was scared. He was waiting for us and he was like, ‘When will it be ready?’”
But he was also looking forward to his fourth birthday on March 4th.
Five days after his special day, Sasha called his mom for the last time.
Anna said: “He said, ‘Mom, don’t worry. I’ll drive to you when they stop shooting.”
They were surrounded on three sides, and the only way out by boat was across the six-mile-wide Dnieper Reservoir.
Anna said the world must never forget the terror and pain Russia brought upon her country – and her devastated family.
And she vowed to see Vladimir Putin tried in a war crimes court in The Hague.
For the first time since Sasha’s disappearance, she said: “All the death, all the terror that happened in Ukraine cannot be forgotten.
“I want the world to remember Sasha and remember who did this to him. It was Russia. It was Putin. I don’t know how to shoot a gun, but I can tell people the truth about this terrible war.”
Anna revealed the horrific moment she knew her son was dead – recognizing him by his hand and tiny fingernails under a blanket that served as a makeshift shroud.
But she wanted to remember her angel boy, also named Sashenka, when they were last together, four days before the war.
Anna sobbed: “I wasn’t strong enough to see his face. I only saw his fingers, his nails.
“And yes, I understood that it was Sashenka.”
Sasha’s aunt Marina had his body bathed, dressed and placed in a small white coffin because there was no one there to perform a religious ritual.
Anna added: “I will remember him for the rest of my life as he was four days before the war.
“If you had a chance to meet Sasha, everyone would say to me, ‘This is the nicest kid in the world. The friendliest’.
“He loved everyone. When you asked him: ‘Who do you love more?’ He said: “I love you all because you are my family.
“He loved toy cars and Lego. He had a lot of cars, you can’t imagine. There is no child in the world with so many cars.”
Fighting back tears, she added: “He was the cutest kid in the world. And I say it not because I’m his mother. Just because everyone who knows him loved him. And he loved everyone.
“If you’ve had a chance to play with him or communicate with him and if he feels like you’re being nice, he’ll say, ‘I love you.’
“He said ‘I love you’ to everyone he likes.”
He was the cutest kid in the world. And I say it not because I’m his mother. Just because everyone who knows him loved him. And he loved everyone.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy told world leaders about Sasha’s ordeal during his virtual world tour.
He said: “There was no other escape route then – the Russian military blocked all roads. They shot people in the streets. So the adults tried to escape them at the river.”
Anna was shocked. She knew it was the last resort because Zoya couldn’t swim and had always been afraid of water.
They drove to a jetty while the sounds of bomb blasts and gunfire rumbled around them.
I wasn’t strong enough to see his face. I only saw his fingers, his nails.
Anna said she tried to call Zoya the next day but got no answer.
Anna was in another town, so Sascha’s father, also known as Sascha, and Marina raced to the east bank of the reservoir, where Sascha’s boat should have landed.
They learned that two boats had left, but only one had made it.
President Zelenskyy said one of the boats capsized after witnesses reported shelling.
Anna asked the emergency services to search the vast expanse of icy water with a drone, but they refused, saying she would be shot down.
On March 11, Sasha’s boat was spotted washing up on the west coast of Tolokun, about three miles downstream from where it started.
Under the inverted torso lay the body of Olena Zhur, who had visited Zoya’s neighbors. She was dead by the water a few yards away.
But Anna clung to the hope that Sasha was still alive.
He was the only one wearing a life jacket and she prayed he had made it to shore and someone had picked him up.
She thought the lack of power might mean the phones were down and the rescuers had no way of calling her.
Vladimir Putin, stop the war. See you in The Hague. I don’t wish him dead. I can’t wish for anything. His life is really ugly and he won’t be the emperor he wants. Under no circumstance.
Or maybe they didn’t know his parents were looking for him.
Anna said: “Day after day I waited. I had so many messages. I just read the news from morning to night. Lots of messages from different people.”
They contained pictures of another lost child.
Anna said: “But it wasn’t Sascha. So my hope lived. I believed until the last day.”
On March 30, the body of Christina Zhur, 20, was discovered at Yasnohorodkha, six miles downstream from the jetty.
On March 31, boater Oleksii Gorodny was found on the outskirts of Kyiv, about 14 miles behind Christina.
But Anna still had hope.
She said: “I believed we would find Sasha alive. There was no way he wasn’t alive. Then, on April 5th, I was woken up at 8am to a phone call.
“I was afraid of early calls. It was our friend from the village and he said: “Anna, someone found a child”. He drove there in 30 minutes and brought it to our house. It was Sasha.”
They buried him next to his grandmother Zoya.
Sasha is an angel. Maybe he is an angel of peace.
Anna said: “They tried to run away from the Russian troops and the Russian world.
“Russia killed them. If they hadn’t occupied our territory, this wouldn’t have happened. I just want it to stop.”
Two of the other passengers, Ihor Zhur and Dmytro Titok, 18, Christina’s friend, were found on April 19 and 25.
And the body of Andrei Gorodny, the eighth person on the boat, was recovered yesterday.
How they died remains a mystery, and Anna said: “There is no one alive to tell me what happened.
“I understand that I have to learn to live with it, because this situation, this pain, will accompany me through my near life.
“Sascha is an angel. Maybe he is an angel of peace.
“Maybe my story will help. And if it helps a person, I’m really glad. If it helps thousands of people, I think my life is worth something.”
Anna also had a simple message for the Russian President.
She said: “Vladimir Putin, stop the war. See you in The Hague.
“I don’t wish him dead. I can’t wish for anything. His life is really ugly and he won’t be the emperor he wants. Under no circumstance.
“He will sit in The Hague and see me there.
“His army came here and did this. They too are responsible.
“You will pay for it. They will pay for all Ukrainians.”
https://www.the-sun.com/news/5285040/heart-wrenching-video-sasha-4-blowing-candles-dead-seven-later/ Heartbreaking video shows little Sasha, 4, blowing out candles on her birthday cake