130 children from Ukraine live without their parents in the city and district of Kassel

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Of: Katja Rudolph


Safe in Kassel: Bozhena Krisanova from Ukraine has lived with her godmother in Bettenhausen for two months. © Katja Rudolph

130 children and young people from Ukraine currently live without their parents in the city and district of Kassel. They were brought or sent here by their families to be secured against the Russian war of aggression. We met a 14-year-old from Kiev who lives with his godmother.

Most of the children live with or are accompanied by relatives or acquaintances. As a rule, children and young people from Ukraine already come with a power of attorney from their parents, which transfers custody to the person or person responsible, says Judith Osterbrink, head of the youth welfare office in Kassel city. “We are experiencing a well-organized escape scenario.” The youth welfare office will, if necessary, contact the parents to check the power of attorney. And there are visits to the self-organized foster family.

But especially in the first weeks of the war, many children were taken in privately without the youth protection being informed, Osterbrink reports. But it is important – also to prevent people with bad intentions from taking advantage of the emergency for the families from Ukraine. “At the moment, it’s easier than ever to grab a child.” However, no problematic cases are known yet.

A total of 70 children and young people from Ukraine who are here without parents are registered in the city. The youngest are 10, the majority 15 to 16 years old. The Youth Office took over the guardianship of a dozen of those affected. Only occasionally would young people have had to be accommodated in a nursing home for a short period of time.

The Kassel district currently cares for about 60 unaccompanied minors from Ukraine. About half of them live with family members living together, reports district spokesman Harald Kühlborn. The others were distributed on private networks, two found housing through a sports club and two were placed in foster families.

The head of the youth office in Kassel is appealing to families who have taken in Ukrainian children to report any difficulties at an early stage. “You can also report if everything goes well,” she emphasizes. The goal is to support the foster families and the children as much as possible. After losing the family in Ukraine, stable conditions are important for the children.

Kasselerin receives her godson from Kiev

One of them is Bozhena Krisanova. The 14-year-old seems lively, happy and open-minded. Like a normal teenager actually. But nothing has been normal in her life since February 24th. Then began the war in Ukraine. Bozhena (pronounced Boschena with a soft sh-sound) is from Kiev, where she lives with her parents. Or more precisely: lived. The Ukrainian girl has been at home in Kassel for two months.

Her godmother Irina Gil took her in. “It is important to me that the child is safe,” said the 58-year-old who lives in Bettenhausen. Her ex-husband was Ukrainian – that’s how she became friends with the Krisanova family in Kiev. Irina Gil herself comes from Kazakhstan and came to Germany 30 years ago. She speaks with Bozhena in Russian – and a little more in German every day.

Bozhena has often visited Kassel, even alone. “My aunt is lovely, cool and so funny,” she says excitedly in English. She has been back in Kassel since March 23, but this time she can not enjoy the visit and the trips and activities together as usual.

She is grateful that she is safe, the 14-year-old says. And Germany and Kassel are really nice, she emphasizes almost apologetically. “But I miss my parents a lot.” Fortunately, they are now in Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine, where the situation is still reasonably calm. Every day they wish Bozhena good morning and good night on their mobile phone and also make a lot of calls in between. Bozhena is particularly worried about his adult brother, who has to fight in the war.

Her parents lived with her in Kassel for four days in March – also to arrange the formalities, including with the youth care. It worked great, says godmother Irina Gil. When the parents had left, “a very nice woman” from the youth office was present to make sure Bozhena was in good hands.

Since then, Irina Gil, who herself has two grown children, has had a daughter again in everyday life. The 58-year-old, who runs a tailor shop in Unterneustadt, cooks in the evening in advance, so Bozhena has something hot to eat after school. Unfortunately, she regrets not having her own room for her godson. So she shares a double bed with Bozhena. There is now a desk in the spacious living room with open kitchen where the student can work.

Bozhena is in the 8th grade at Goethegymnasium, where she has already made friends. After school, in addition to homework, she also does homework for her Ukrainian school. Exams are on the way next year. Bozhena certainly wants to do that.

“She’s just learning,” says Irina Gil, shrugging. Sometimes she really has to encourage her godchild to take a break. Bozhena is very conscientious, also helps in the household and cleans up, the godmother is full of praise. “There are no problems,” she says. Bozhena is mostly happy. But sometimes she gets very quiet. “When she’s alone, she cries too – but she does not tell me,” says the godmother. It is important for Bozhena that no one needs to worry about her – neither her godmother nor her parents in Ukraine. “I want them to be proud of me.” Therefore, she wants to have good grades, learn German quickly and not burden anyone with homesickness or other worries that she reveals privately.

She knows she’s lucky, says the 14-year-old. Sometimes she has a bad conscience because of it. “No child from Ukraine should experience this war.” Her godmother agrees. “I do not stand for Russia,” emphasizes the native Kazakh, who, along with his Russian relatives, omits the subject of Ukraine. “To me, Putin is a killer.” Irina Gil is sure: she will be there for her godchild as long as necessary. (Katja Rudolph)

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