A special-needs girl was one of at least 23 people killed in a July 14 missile strike on the Ukrainian city of Vinnytsya. Until the very day of the attack, the child’s mother had documented the struggles and joy of raising a child with Down syndrome.
These photos of Iryna Dmytriyeva and her daughter Elizaveta were taken in a lavender field near Vinnytsya in early July.
One week after these flower-themed photos were made, several Kalibr cruise missiles struck Vinnytsya, a city to the southwest of Kyiv and far from invading Russian forces.
The missiles killed at least 23 people, including Elizaveta, who was 4 years old. Her mother, Iryna, lost a leg in the attack and is reportedly in a coma.
Iryna wrote that she and her partner learned that Liza was a special-needs child while she was still in the womb.
"When we learned about the pregnancy, we were extremely happy. The perfect picture of the family was immediately drawn in our heads. But fate decided differently," Iryna recalled in an Instagram post. "We were about to go through pain, disappointment in others, humiliation, and fear."
Iryna says she was told by medical experts: "You are young. Why do you need a sick child?"
The couple chose to go ahead, despite knowing their baby would have serious health issues. Both were determined "to show Liza the world, not hide her between four walls."
When Liza was 7 months old, she underwent heart surgery. In the hospital, Iryna described watching "how our girl was taken out of the operating room and transferred to intensive care. Covered in wires, drips.... So small and defenseless."
After more than five hours of waiting, the parents were told the operation had been a success.
In June 2019, Iryna announced that "Liza sat down herself! Without support!" She added: "Only a little thing for some, but for us it's incredible.… For us, Liza is a fighter and a hero, a strong little girl whom we love to the point of madness."
"For us mothers of special-needs children, every new skill is a great joy -- behind which is a lot of work," Iryna wrote.
Soon after the missile attack, Ukraine's first lady, Olena Zelenska, tweeted: "Today, we all were horrified by a photo of an overturned baby carriage from Vinnytsya. And then, reading the news, I realized that I know this girl. Knew.... I will not write all the words I want to, to those who killed her. I will write to you about [Liza].
"We met while recording a video for Christmas holidays. The little girl managed to paint with dye not only herself, her dress, but also all the other children, me, the cameramen and the director just in half an hour.... Look at her, alive, please. Crying with her loved ones."