Yoga classes support Ukrainian refugees in Slovakia

Having lived over a year in Ukraine since war first escalated, Kateryna hardly understood her need for support. The Blue Dot and its activities provided her with opportunities to connect and heal.

A girl laying down on a yoga mat.
UNICEF/UNI426373/Le Lijour
22 February 2024

Kateryna's life, as the lives of millions of Ukrainians, was turned upside down by war. She and her family are from Bucha, and they stayed for more than a year in Kyiv before fleeing to Slovakia.  

“Living with air raid alerts as a constant background, I didn’t even realize I needed help,” admits Kateryna, emblemizing how people can sometimes get used to the worst circumstances. “But as soon as I came to a peaceful country I understood that my son`s mental health and mine were far from okay.”  

“I could hear my son crying into his pillow at night. He`s 11 years old, but he wants to stay strong outside, so he hides his emotions. I was worried for him.”   

A women doing a twist pose during a yoga class.
UNICEF/UNI426376/Le Lijour

Our power lies in sticking together 

Once in Košice, in Eastern Slovakia, the family started to visit the Blue Dot Hub, a safe space coordinated by UNICEF, UNHCR and the Slovak Humanitarian Council that offers a wide range of support to refugees. Even after visiting the Hub once, Kateryna recalls, her son had already found other kids that soon became his friends.  

“It`s important for us to stick together. This is our power.” This is why the Blue Dot was a miracle for Kateryna and her son, she says. There, they found a community that felt like family. “I don`t want to stay alone ever again,” she admits.   

“Yoga is freedom for the soul” 

It’s through the Blue Dot that Kateryna discovered yoga, which soon became a source of healing for her. Physical activity aside, the practice also helps her emotionally. “I am sure that after the war will end, yoga will stay in my life. It’s something that saved my mental health and helped me encircle myself with amazing people, even though I’m so far from home.” 

A girl sits in a cross-legged seat during a yoga class.
UNICEF/UNI426371/Le Lijour

The yoga classes at the Blue Dot are open to children, adolescents and parents. “Yoga is freedom for the soul,” says Anna, an eight-year-old girl from the Poltava region in Ukraine who really enjoys the classes.  

Because of yoga and other activities, as well as the friends she made at the Hub, she’s always impatient to come back. After all, it’s the community, as well as the the power of simple activities like yoga, that make the Blue Dot in Košice such a special place for many Ukrainians.  

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