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A Ukrainian father hitchhiked a grueling 500 miles across Ukraine to spend just 24 hours with his wife and two children before being deployed to fight the next day.
Maxim Lietova, 38, hitchhiked with truck drivers, walked and used public transportation every 500 miles to reach his family at their home in western Ukraine.
Maxim, who had been given a little bit of leave before being sent to the front to fight against Russian soldiers, traveled through the night and finally arrived at 6 a.m. Monday and was able to surprise his wife Olga, 33, and their two children Masha. , six, and Miskha, two, when they woke up.
“I did everything I could to get home,” said Maxim The Telegraphadding that he will never take those moments with his family for granted.
Maxim, who hadn’t seen his children since March, explains: “When I was a child and my mother and father said goodnight to us, we did not understand the importance of this gesture. Now this phrase has a greater meaning to me.
“Now I wish the whole world would go to sleep under a peaceful sky.”
After spending a fleeting 24 hours with his family, Maxim was once again deployed to the front line.
Heartbreaking photos show Maxim, dressed in his army uniform, and his wife Olga holding and kissing each other before he was sent to fight against Russia.
Maxim Lietova, 38, hitchhiked with truck drivers, walked and used public transportation every 500 miles to reach his family at their home in western Ukraine. He was eventually reunited with his wife Olga and their two children for 24 hours. Pictured: Maxim and Olga hug the day before Maxim was deployed to the front line
The couple have traveled long distances to see each other – even if it meant only seeing each other for a few minutes – since the war started six months ago.
Last month, Olga drove 466 miles across Ukraine to surprise Maxim and spent just 20 minutes with him after returning from military training in the UK.
Maxim recalls watching in amazement when he was Olga running along a road in a blue dress to him and his comrades. Maxim, overcome with emotion, wipes her from her feet and holds her as they both wept with relief.
Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian families have been torn apart in the war, with soldiers fighting at the front for months without being able to return home.
Olga and Maxim know that after their most recent 24 hours together, they may not see each other for a long time. Despite how difficult it is to leave his wife and children, Maxim says it is his duty to serve Ukraine.
“I think it’s the duty of every man in Ukraine to defend our motherland,” said Maxim, who worked as a sales manager for Nestle before the war, holding his wife’s hand at their home in western Ukraine.
“How would my wife and children look at me if I was afraid of an air raid siren?”
Maxim and Olga met at school in Kryvyi Rih, the city in central Ukraine where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky grew up, but only fell in love 10 years ago.
In those 10 years, the couple has never had two days apart – meaning they grab every opportunity they can see each other during the war.
But Maxim does not know when he will see Olga and their two children again.
Reunited for only one day, Maxim and Olga embrace before being sent to the front to fight against Russian forces
Ukrainian servicemen ride on an armored personnel carrier (APC) as they make their way along a highway on the outskirts of Kryvyi Rih on April 28
He joined his comrades on the front lines on Tuesday as Ukrainian troops continue to mount a fierce defense against Russian soldiers.
Fierce fighting is raging in the southern region of Kherson, where Ukraine launched a counter-offensive on Monday.
Most of the region and the provincial capital of the same name were taken by Russian troops six months ago at the start of the invasion.
With the war in the eastern Donbas region largely at a standstill, analysts have been saying for weeks that the battle will likely shift south to break the stalemate before winter arrives.
Ukraine considers retaking the Kherson region crucial to prevent Russian attempts to capture more territory further west, which could eventually cut off access to the Black Sea.
Britain, an ally of Ukraine, said Ukrainian formations in the south had pushed back Russian front troops some distance in some places, using relatively thin Russian defenses. Ukraine said it had “success” in three parts of the region, but declined to give details.
In the morning update, the president’s office in Kiev said “fighting continued all night” in Kherson, and one person had been killed and two injured in a nighttime bomb attack in the Mykolaiv area.
But Russia’s defense ministry claimed Kiev’s efforts to continue its counter-offensive had “failed,” with Ukrainian forces “incurring significant losses and being driven back by Russian forces.”
The Ukrainian presidency, for its part, said its forces had destroyed “almost all major bridges” over the Dnipro River, a major supply route for Russian troops, leaving only pedestrian crossings.