The forced deportation of Ukraine’s children from Russian-occupied territories has been front-page news since the International Criminal Court at the Hague issued an arrest warrant for President Putin on this charge in March 2023.

The Harriman Institute brings together the founder of Save Ukraine, Mykola Kuleba, filmmaker Tetiana Khodakivska, artist Alevtina Kakhidze, and legal scholar Volodymyr Venher, who will explore different aspects of Russian war crimes against the children of Ukraine in a conversation with Harriman Director Valentina Izmirlieva.


Mykola Kuleba is a Ukrainian social and political activist and former Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights (2014-2021). With over 25 years of experience advocating for children’s rights, he is a globally recognized child protection expert and has received several international awards for his work, including the Oxi Courage Award and the Manhae Peace Award 2023. In 2014, Kuleba founded the charitable organization Save Ukraine, which is the key Ukrainian institution organizing rescue missions for forcibly deported children. To date, Save Ukraine has successfully repatriated 227 children abducted during the current war in Ukraine.

Tetiana Khodakivska is a Ukrainian filmmaker based in New York City. Her body of work includes European Submissions for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film and films that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. She has received, among other distinctions, the Gold Plaque at the Chicago International Film Festival and the Silver Screen Award at the US International Film and Video Festival. In 2023, Tetiana initiated an international project “The Blue Sweater with a Yellow Hole” aimed at amplifying the voices of repatriated Ukrainian children. As part of the project, she has made an animated documentary based on interviews conducted with the children, part of which will be shown during our event.

Alevtina Kakhidze is an internationally recognized Ukrainian conceptual artist. She came of age as a political activist during the Revolution of Dignity in 2013-14, and Russia’s occupation of her native Donetsk region in 2014 further radicalized her art. Since then, she has placed experiences of war at the center of her artistic interventions. Kakhidze regularly exhibits both in Ukraine and internationally. She is the inaugural recipient of the Kazimir Malevich Artist Award in 2008 and has served as the UN Tolerance Envoy in Ukraine since 2018.  In the summer of 2023, she joined Tetiana Khodakivska’s project to conduct drawing interviews with repatriated Ukrainian children. Some of the art generated during these sessions will be on display during the Harriman event.

Dr. Volodymyr Venher is Dean of the Faculty of Law of the National University of “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy” and Associate Professor in the Department of Jurisprudence and Public Law, conducts comprehensive research on the theoretical foundations and practice of implementing the rule of law and human rights standards in Ukraine. One of the leading Ukrainian constitutional scholars today, he has focused much of his recent work on the forcible transfer and russification of Ukrainian children, analyzing these acts as a genocidal Kremlin strategy for the ultimate destruction of the Ukrainian nation.

Convener and Moderator:

Valentina Izmirlieva is Professor in Columbia’s Slavic Department and Director of the Harriman Institute. She is a scholar of Balkan and East Slavic religious and political cultures, with a focus on multi-ethnic and multi-religious empires and their successor states. The topics of her publications range from the medieval societies of the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions, including Kyivan Rus’, to the post-Soviet cultural space. The recipient of many awards and distinctions, Professor Izmirlieva delivered the inaugural Memorial Shevelov Lecture of Ukrainian Studies in 2018. She founded and leads Black Sea Networks, a global initiative to investigate the Black Sea as a hub of cultural, political, and historical interest.

The event is co-sponsored by Columbia Global Centers, Columbia Journalism School, the Institute for Global Politics at SIPA, and the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies.