When the war broke out in Ukraine, many families were forced to flee immediately—leaving behind loved ones, beloved pets and precious memories of home. Over a year has passed since the war began and millions of families have resettled within Ukraine or in other countries with the help of UNHCR and its partners.
Ukrainian families and children are now in dire need of psychosocial support. The traumatic experiences of war weigh most heavily on children who face multiple acute and potential long-term traumatic consequences of being victims of war. Here are just a few Ukrainian children and families who have benefited from UNHCR’s psychosocial support services.
Olena and Mykyta
Olena and her five-year-old son, Mykyta, were evacuated from Mariupol, Ukraine in March 2022. They now live in Dnipro where they receive assistance from a humanitarian hub supported by UNHCR. The hub provides them with care and support in the form of non-food items, legal counseling and importantly—psychosocial support.
“It is important today for children to get therapy, overcome their traumatic experiences, and to communicate with their peers and other children,” says Olena. Although Olena and Mykyta are now in a safe place, she still worries about how the traumatic experiences of war have impacted her son.
To help him process his emotions, as well as her own, Olena and her son are attending individual art-therapy sessions organized by UNHCR's NGO partner Proliska. Mykyta is also socializing in group classes with children his age.
“Thanks to the collective classes they have, they can discuss other topics, draw, and talk about their home, streets, yards, Azov sea, which they miss very much,” Olena says.
When Maria and her family were forced to flee Ukraine, she never thought she would have to leave her beloved dog Sharik behind. Millions of families like Maria’s were forced to make these difficult decisions when fleeing home.
Maria is safe in Budapest now but not a day goes by that she doesn’t think about Sharik. Now, she only has a photograph to remember him by. As a young refugee with special needs and who has difficulty speaking, it is especially challenging for Maria to communicate her emotions and process her feelings.
For children like Maria, who have a harder time expressing their emotions, animal therapy can be a great way to relieve stress. In Budapest, a UNHCR-supported community center is offering animal therapy to Ukrainian children. Noir, the dog pictured with Maria, has been specially trained to calm children. Noir reminds Maria of her own dog Sharik and she immediately feels comforted by his presence.
Zi De Bine
Zi De Bine, or “good day” in Romanian, is providing essential psychosocial support services to Ukrainian families and children in Bucharest. When the war in Ukraine began, the team at Zi De Bine community center immediately opened its doors to help refugees in need.
“When we told them ‘Welcome’, their faces suddenly lit up. I will see people who are laughing together and who, for a few moments, have taken their minds off the pain and trauma they’re going through,” said Melania, Founder of Zi De Bine.
UNHCR has partnered with Zi De Bine to support refugees with language classes, dance lessons, yoga, counseling and art therapy for children. The community center is a safe space for Ukrainian refugees to process their emotions with each other and attend activities together.
Vlas, Maria and Uliana are just a few of the many Ukrainian children who have benefited from art therapy sessions at Zi De Bine. They’re old enough to understand why they had to flee Ukraine but want nothing more than for the war to end and to return home. Until that is possible, art therapy is allowing them to socialize with children their age and providing them with much needed stress relief.
How to Help…
As the war in Ukraine continues, many internally displaced Ukrainians and refugees will need psychosocial support. Your ongoing support can make a big difference in the lives of those who have been forced to flee their homes to escape violence and find safety. By becoming USA for UNHCR’s newest monthly donor, you can ensure that children and families in and around Ukraine are receiving the mental health care they desperately need.