His mother fled, opting for the relative safety of Zaporizhia, a city controlled by the Ukrainian government, where the baby was born a Ukrainian citizen in a country invaded by the Russians eight months ago. The grandparents stayed on the other side of the river.
“It may be too late for them to escape,” laments Anastasia Skachko, 19, looking down at her still nameless daughter.
“I don’t even want them to try. The roads are mined, either bombed,” she slips.
The Ukrainian counter-offensive, which saw the Russians ceding most of the conquered lands in the north, reached the very strategic south.
Disheartened Russian forces clung to the southern region of Kherson – a land bridge that gave the Kremlin access to the annexed Crimean peninsula – and bombarded the Ukrainians, who advanced with renewed might.
The fighting destroys the towns placed along the river and blocks the escape routes used by the families at the start of the war.
Anastasia Skachko says she managed to reach her mother on WhatsApp to tell her that she was now a grandmother. But the phone number started with the Russian international dialing code +7 instead of the Ukrainian dialing code +38.
The Russians have indeed disconnected the existing lines of the Ukrainian system to establish their authority and cut off the flow of information.
“It’s hard to say if she will ever see the little one,” Anastasia says. “We both know that. But neither of us wanted to talk about it on the phone.
An open prison
Martial law imposed by Kremlin forces on lands Russia claims as its own makes daily life even more unpredictable. Russia has closed the last checkpoint in the south to prevent people from fleeing to Ukrainian government-held territory.
Some civilians are being bussed further from the front to areas under Russian control, a move the Ukrainians disinfect as forced deportation.