An 11-year-old Ukrainian boy who traveled hundreds of miles alone to safety has spoken out about his incredible journey.
Hassan Al-Khalaf - who arrived in Slovakia with nothing but a plastic bag, passport, and a phone number written on his hand - is one of over 2.5 million refugees to flee the country since Russian troops invaded last month, Reuters reports.
When the invasion began, the 11-year-old's widowed mother could not leave his elderly grandmother at home alone. So she made the decision to send Hassan all on his own to journey from their home Zaporizhzhie in southeast Ukraine to Slovakia, where his brother is a student.
Hassan's mom wrote her phone number on her son's hand and gave him directions to the border, but beyond that, the child was left to make the trek over 620 miles on his own.
Miraculously, he reached Slovakia in early March after joining masses of refugees flooding into the neighboring country. When local police found him and heard his story, they were moved by his incredible journey and posted it to their Facebook page along with a caption calling him a "hero".
"This brings tears to our eyes. This is the biggest hero of last night," police wrote in the March 5 post, after finding Hassan at the border crossing.
Since then, Hassan has drawn widespread media attention for his incredible story. On Friday, he gave an interview before appearing at a pro-Ukraine demonstration in the Slovak capital Bratislava.
"I got my hope from my mom wanting me to go," the little boy said through an interpreter, adding: "My hope carried me on my way."
He went on the thank all those who had helped him on his way, saying: "I want to say a big thank you to the volunteers, because they are helping people they don't even know."
Meanwhile, Hassan remains hopeful about seeing his mother again."I believe that there will be a happy end," he told interviewers.
If you would like to know how you can support the Ukrainian people at this time, click HERE to find a list of organizations and groups dedicated to helping those affected by this crisis.