Fearing that she and her husband could be killed by Russian soldiers, leaving her young child an orphan, one Ukrainian mom wrote her family's contact information on her daughter's body.
Sasha, 33, lived in the center of Kyiv, Ukraine, before Russia invaded her country. A painter, art teacher and former art curator, she said she'd often go on family walks near the canal.
Then, on Feb. 24, the first Russian bombs fell, and Sasha could only think of one thing: Getting her 2-year-old daughter to safety.
Sasha, along with her husband, quickly packed up as many belongings as they could carry and fled Kyiv. In preparation for their journey and in fear of Russians targeting civilians, she wrote her extended family's contact information in permanent marker on her daughter's back.
"I tried to imagine if something happened with me and her dad, there would be no information for her," Sasha, whose last name is being withheld for her safety, told TODAY Parents. "Who would care for her if she survived? And I really want her to know who she is. So maybe someone could connect her with some relatives."
Along with the contact information on her child's skin, Sasha created a makeshift contact card with her daughter's grandparents information, should something happen to her and her husband.
"We did not know if it would be safe for us," she added. "The sounds of bombing woke us up at 5 am in the morning. I heard the sounds of our air defense — the sirens. I couldn't believe they were bombing us."
Sasha recently uploaded the picture to Instagram, primarily for herself.
"I am an artist, I wanted to show my feelings," she said. "And I think the world should see it. I have many messages now from parents in other countries who are shocked. They can't imagine that Russians could do something like this."
Like the over 10 million Ukrainians who have been displaced as a result of the war, Sasha and her family were able to safely flee Kyiv. The family first fled to central Ukraine to stay with relatives, hoping they were far enough away from Kyiv to remain safe. But after continuous bombings and nights in bomb shelters, they decided to move even further away.
They are now safe, in a location she did not feel comfortable sharing. She is still afraid that Russian soldiers will eventually come for her and her family.
Now, Sasha says her days run together; she cannot differentiate one from the other. She says she cannot even bring herself to make a video call to her mother, because she immediately starts crying.
"My daughter just wants her grandmother," she said. "They just want to be together."
Sasha does try to find time to paint, to break up the days and bring a sense of normalcy back into her life.
"I'm painting some gifts for the people who are helping us," she added. It gives me a sense of calm and peace, to just be doing something."
Her daughter is too young to know what is going on, due to her age — a silver lining for Sasha, who says she has young family members who do know what is going on, and the fear in their voices and on their faces is almost too much to bare.
"I am really happy about her age," she explained. "Clearly, I think she feels (the anxiety) from me and her father, because we're very scared. The first week of the war, every day she asked if she could go home. She doesn't talk much because she's little and just learning how to speak, but she would ask, 'Home? Home?' when we first left. It was heartbreaking."
Sasha said she has no idea if she will be able to return to Kyiv — even though Russian forces are pulling away from the city, she does not feel like it is safe enough to go back home.
“Russians are not near Kyiv with their tanks, but it’s still a 50/50 chance that a bomb could reach our house,” she explained. “They’re still bombing from the air. My relatives are there, but I couldn’t even imagine. I just can’t, the risk of being bombed from the air is too high.”
Still, Sasha thinks often about the life she had before Russia invaded her country and she was forced to write her family’s contact information on her daughter’s skin.
“We had a beautiful life,” she said. “We would visit art exhibitions and my husband would make sculptures. Now, I’m afraid art is not needed anymore. The Russians destroyed so much, we will have to work hard to rebuild everything.”