"I have friends here. This is very important to me."
How UNICEF supports refugees from Ukraine
"I like it here in Croatia. I found a friend on the playground, so we play football together. His name is Marko, and sometimes his friends join us, and we all play football together. That's important to me. I really like playing on the street and hanging out with friends ", Maksim (12), a sixth grader, shared with us.
Maksim and his mother Vita arrived in Croatia in May 2022, after an organized evacuation from the city of Chernihiv in Ukraine. When the war started, says Vita, it was a big shock for everyone:
"People lived normally. Everyone had their own job, their own home, something of their own. The children went to school. Maksim went swimming and football. There was no reason to fear. We lived in our home, which is no longer there," Vita shared with us.
In Croatia, they live in collective housing, and their days are filled with different activities.
"I and other women from Ukraine start the day practising yoga, after which we have breakfast. Maksim plays sports in the morning, and after that, he attends online classes from Ukraine. Lunch and free time follow, and in the evening, Maksim goes swimming," Vita told us, and Maksim adds that he likes sixth grade: "I don't find online learning difficult. The sixth grade is similar to the fifth grade, but there are some new topics. Sometimes, the electricity goes out in Ukraine and then there are no classes. Many classes are not held. As for the subjects, I like the Ukrainian language.
However, Vita also sees the other perspective of distance learning and is worried about the future: "Learning at school and like this, at a distance, is by no means the same. I think that both parents and teachers understand this well. Sometimes I must go through the material alone with him. Of course, I don't understand everything, which means that I first must sit down and study something myself so that I can explain it to him. Teachers do extra hours if students don't understand something, even individually. However, it is not the same as when you go to school when you sit at a desk and talk with the teacher in person. The quality is by no means the same. I'm worried about that."
She is also worried about the situation in their homeland: "We are here in Croatia, but the news and everything that is left there is still present in us. We live with what we have left in Ukraine. We just hope for peace and return as soon as possible."
UNICEF, in cooperation with the Center for Social Care Split, provides group and individual support in collective accommodation, and there is also a space for playing and socializing, participating in distance learning and holding workshops.
"My colleague and I have daily meetings with mothers and guardians where we talk about current topics that bother them," psychologist Josip Herceg told us.
"They take good care of both children and adults, they are always here for us. They pay a lot of attention to our children, Vita told us and added: "It is very important for me to express my gratitude to everyone in Croatia." Before, I didn't even know that there was such a country, Croatia and that there are such wonderful people here, literally everyone and everywhere. Thank you."