UNICEF delivers winter supplies for displaced families in Bulgaria
As temperatures in Bulgaria continue to drop, UNICEF and partners are delivering winter supplies to vulnerable families through a network of Blue Dots and partner organizations
Memories of Anna’s hometown in Ukraine bring tears to her eyes.
“We had only 15 minutes to leave Mariupol,”
she says, as she arrives to collect warm blankets for her son in the safe space, protection and support hub “Blue Dot” in Sofia, Bulgaria. “We took nothing with us. When I was told to leave, I ran without a coat. Only in my pajamas.”
Anna is one of scores of Ukrainian refugees who are collecting winter supplies from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and partners in Bulgaria. The supplies are giving some of the most vulnerable families fresh hope, as temperatures plummet.
“My house was destroyed,” says Anna. “I worked with psychologists back in Ukraine and here in Bulgaria. I know that we will return home. We are thankful for the support and assistance we get from all the people we meet.”
To date, UNICEF and partners have distributed warm blankets to refugees in Sofia, Varna, Burgas, Plovdiv and Blagoevgrad. UNICEF works closely with the Bulgarian Red Cross to reach the most vulnerable displaced families, many of whom have been accommodated in government facilities and private housing through the organisation’s network , through the 6 Blue Dots, safe spaces for families and children.
Established by UNICEF and UNHCR, Blue Dots in Bulgaria are well known among the Ukrainian refugee community for providing helpful information and much-needed support. Their services extend beyond assistance to new arrivals and offer a helping hand to families whose resources deplete as the war in Ukraine approaches its grim milestone.
With a wide range of services available in the Blue Dots, refugees often return to receive information, counseling, legal assistance,emotional support and humanitarian aid.
In the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, the Blue Dot space is filled with women who share bitter experiences of fleeing violence and finding refuge far from home.
“We were lucky as we left quite early,”
says Viktoria from Berdyansk, who came with her three-year-old son Taras to collect assistance. “But our trip was long, with more than 40 hours on the road.”
As the women queue to pick up the winter supplies, children play in the child-friendly space set up in the Blue Dot to keep the smallest visitors busy.
“We fled to Bulgaria in March,” says Natalia, a mother of three, from Kyiv. “We thought our stay would be just a few weeks, but we’ve now been here for more than ten months.”
Natalia came to the Blue Dot with her two youngest daughters, Sofia and Nicole. Both girls no longer fit into the clothing they wore during the last winter when they fled Ukraine.
“We need new shoes and winter clothes, as the children grew fast,” says Natalia. “And new books as they quickly get used to those few books we have.”
Another Natalia cuddles her son Grisha, as she fills out a document.
“We’ve learned about this timely support from others,”
she says, happily.
“We are very well connected with other mothers from Ukraine and information travels fast.”
Natalia’s life in Sofia can be challenging at times, but she tries to stay positive. She smiles with relief when a worker from the Bulgarian Red Cross promises to keep her posted about upcoming distributions of humanitarian assistance at the Blue Dot.
This winter, with support from the United States Government, UNICEF will provide 17,000 children and families in Bulgaria with blankets, warm clothes and hygiene kits to help keep them warm.