The horror in the cartoons of children fleeing the war in Ukraine

Bombs and corpses, houses leveled, tanks and helicopters. They represent through images the war scenes that pass before their eyes, helpless and innocent at the same time. Like in a horror movie. There is pain, anguish and fear in the drawings as children fleeing Ukraine tell of the terror they have just experienced. Nine weeks after the Russian invasion that marked the beginning of the conflict, Red The Children, the organization that has been fighting for over 100 years to rescue girls and boys in danger and to secure a future for them, is sending them out.

The recently released data shakes: Over 5 million people – including 2.8 million children – have fled Ukraine since the start of the war. Two million and three hundred thousand of them are still in their land, while more than 500 have been killed or wounded. During a nine-week war, the Romanian border alone would have been crossed by over 750,000 refugees.

The reception machine moved and guaranteed immediate support to people fleeing the bombs. First stop Romania. “As soon as the first families from Ukraine began to cross the border,” say NGO sources, “Save the Children created a child-friendly space at the largest train station in Bucharest, a transit point for thousands of people every day. Refugees. This is a carefully designed play area filled with toys and drawing stations.Rooms specially designed to allow children to be children again, after shaky journeys that have forced them to leave their homes and often even families and friends ”.

NGO staff describe the early days of children, assisted by psychologists and child protection experts. “Hilda, 12, drew a crying woman dressed in the colors of the Ukrainian flag next to a faceless gray soldier as bombs fall from a plane. A child used a red pencil to portray himself as he leaves his home, “while an unidentified object falls from the sky. Yet another drew two tanks rolling across the side. Finally, there are those who drew two women, one of whom lay on the ground.” Cleaned houses are another recurring theme in children’s drawings. Like hearts with the colors of the national flag.

The drawing of a Ukrainian child who fled to Romania (photo published by Save the Children)

The drawing of a Ukrainian child who fled to Romania (photo published by Save the Children)

“Thousands of families from Ukraine pass through Bucharest North Railway Station every day. The parents arrive exhausted and exhausted, the children are initially very reserved and silent,” said Gabriela Alexandrescu, CEO of Save the Children Romania. “Our child-friendly space allows parents to to rest and access important goods such as food, water, translated information and hygiene items while their children play in a safe environment and can begin to recover after the journey and from the horror he witnessed. ”

The ability to draw, despite the trauma inflicted, is already an achievement. It is also not easy to gather ideas in a context of fear and deprivation. The words of the experts help to understand. “Child Drawings – explains Save the Children psychologist Esperanza Leal Gil – is a means by which they express their feelings about what they have experienced over the past nine weeks. Many of those who come to our child-friendly space in Bucharest are scared and terrified and do not know how to express these feelings. These are thoughts that can be very confusing and difficult for children to process. The child’s reaction – depends on the age. The most common emotion they may experience after experiencing conflict and flight is the fear of being hurt or abandoned. The most common emotions range from sadness to guilt, from anger to impotence for what happened. These reactions are normal in this type of situation. The most important thing is to offer children a safe and secure space where they can express their fears and worries. Drawing and play therapy helps little ones escape stress and anxiety, after seeing things in Ukraine that no child should ever see. Every war is a war against children ”.

The NGO also thinks about the mental well-being of mothers fleeing the war. “We know that stress can affect a mother’s ability to breastfeed, whether it is due to hormonal changes or lack of self-confidence. It is clear that being in a war zone causes an enormous amount of distress, which can have a serious impact on the body both physically and mentally, including the potential disruption of the ability to produce breast milk. “The observation is from Morgan MacDonald, Red The child’s mental health and psychosocial support counselor at the Emergency Department. “Supporting mothers to try breastfeeding can actually be a life-saving intervention. But the fact that we are seeing this happen is incredibly alarming. ”

A Ukrainian girl refugee in Rome (Ansa)
A Ukrainian girl refugee in Rome (Ansa)

A Ukrainian girl refugee in Rome (Ansa)

In terms of welcoming Ukrainian children, a virtuous example is represented by Unicef ​​in Bari, where the organization follows Ukrainian children who have escaped the war from a legal point of view. “All the children who are reported by the embassies, we take them over, we vaccinate them and put them in schools, for the vaccines that we anticipate are not there, and it is true that these children are immediately placed in schools.” This was recently said by the President of Unicef ​​Italia Carmela Pace on the occasion of the appointment of Bari as a friendly city for children and young people. “Imagine what it means for a child of 5, 7, 10, 12, suddenly – said the UNICEF president – not to be at home, with their family, with schoolmates and friends. We also have cultural mediators – he added – for “to ensure that these children are able to make themselves understood and listened to. At the moment we have these children, but we must not forget the children who are in other 146 parts of the world where there are wars.”

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