Children in the Ukraine war: balloons banned


Status: 06/02/2022 08:44

Destruction, flight, death – millions of children in Ukraine must learn to understand and process the war. A challenge that even adults often do not find the words for.

By Andrea Beer, ARD Studio Moscow, currently Dnipro

Brown-haired Karolina hides her face on her mother Dasha’s shoulder. “There’s a big car there,” she mutters. “Yes, my sun,” Dasha replies lovingly and smiles. The two are queuing up in Dnipro to get humanitarian aid. The family left their hometown of Kharkiv due to Russian rocket attacks and the nearby fighting. Bombs, rockets, artillery fire. Three-year-old Karolina saw everything up close.

“She asks what kind of blows and explosions it is. And she does not understand what is going on. How?” says Dasha:

She heard the word war for the first time in her life. I do not know how to deal with this. Should I explain this to the child or not? I do not know what to do.

Dasha and her daughter

2.5 million children fleeing their homeland

Do not lie to children, but still take it easy with them. This is how Marina Kazulenka-Bojka sums it up. The serious-looking child psychologist sits under a clothesline on a rickety chair in the large courtyard of an internally displaced shelter. Three little girls are completely immersed in their game.

According to the UN, about eight million people have been displaced in Ukraine – 2.5 million of them children. They experience war, destruction, death and wounds, flight and bombing.

Very different reactions in children

Lyuba sought refuge with his 12-year-old son in the Kharkiv metro. The boy did not take it well, she cried: “When the planes bombed us, it hurt a lot in his soul, his psyche. The child was with the speech therapist for so long and lost speech again.”

Children usually recover faster than adults, but react very differently to help – depending on where they come from and what they have experienced, says the 44-year-old psychologist Kazulenka-Boyjka. Some are waiting, others are painting and playing right away, others can no longer hold urine and feces.

“There are children who are very scared and disturbed – by explosions and when they have been bombed for a long time. Sleep disturbances can be particularly highlighted,” says Kazulenka-Boyjka. There may be triggers, such as the sound of a passing car. “We do not allow balloons here because they can burst. It is reminiscent of an explosion and can have a retraumatizing effect. Then we should start all over again with this child,” the psychologist continues.

As of early June, more than 240 children have been killed and at least 440 injured as a result of the Russian attack on Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office. Russian occupation, rocket attacks or artillery fire all too often traumatized orphaned or half-orphaned children.

“We’ll talk about it when everything’s fine again”

After all, children want to learn, says Valentina Iwlewa. The lively principal at school number 10 in the Dnipro walks through empty corridors. The summer holidays are soon here, but since the beginning of March, her nearly 500 students have only had distance learning due to the war. War, torture, rape and civilian killings – as in Bucha – she does not address in class, says school principal Iwlewa. The kids did not ask either.

Iwlewa leads through the classrooms, in which mattresses are prepared for refugees. In a corner, Olena Vitalyevna directs class work. “The war turned the lives of the children upside down,” she says. Many parents work around the clock, often in the military or in the medical field. “It’s very difficult with these children,” says Vitalyevna: “We had the family theme – and there was a poem about mother and father. I left it out to protect the children’s feelings. We talk about it when everything comes back well is.”

Meanwhile, little Karolina from Kharkiv talks to mother Dasha about the dog Shuscha. The mother promises:

You know, my sun, one day everything will be fine again, and it’s like a bad dream.

Ukraine: Wounded Souls – Children and War

Andrea Beer, ARD Moscow, June 1, 2022 at 21.50

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