A bag of medals and memories. That’s what a mother brought fleeing Ukraine war

Svitlana left everything behind and fled the war in Ukraine with her four children. All of them are sport champions and Svitlana is carefully carrying their bags full of medals and diplomas.

Miruna Haican
Medals won by ukrainian children
UNICEF/UN0627694/Moldovan
20 April 2022

Svitlana is a mother of champions. She is also a hero who left everything behind, to save her children’s lives. They packed and left war-torn Kherson in a matter of hours. Svitlana made sure to put in her luggage the medals her children won during their sport career.  

Most of the Ukrainian refugees are packing clothes, electronics, food, and medicines, but for Svitlana her children’s accomplishments matter more than anything else. 

They told me not to show you, but I'll show you. I took the diplomas with us”, Svitlana told us, opening one of the bags, which is full of medals and diplomas, all belonging to her four children. 

Maxim plays volleyball, and has also been practicing rowing and kayaking, since he was five. Her other son, Lev, is into acrobatics, while her daughters, Alexandra and Elizabeth play volley ball and practice rowing. 

” I took the decision to leave over the last few days, as planes and missiles from Crimea started to fly over Kherson.  A rocket hit a school nearby. We were living on the 5th floor and had to wake the children up at 3 o'clock at night to shelter in the basement. We just couldn't stand to live like this anymore and decided to leave”, says Svitlana, with tears in her eyes.  

They arrived in Romania, at Isaccea border crossing, where volunteers welcomed them and offered their help. In the Blue Dot hub, supported by UNICEF and partners, Svitlana and her children found a moment of peace.  

” They enjoy the playground so much. As far as I understand, your organization set it up (...) I want to thank UNICEF for helping. They set up a space for children, where they played yesterday and today. We thank all the volunteers, all the people in Romania, and from Ukrainians who fed us.” 

My children simply asked, “Why are people here so good to us?”. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!”, says Svitlana. 

Ukrainian family in a Blue Dot Hub in Isaccea
UNICEF/UN0627699/Moldovan
Elizaveta, 14, Olexandra, 12, Maxim, 9 and Lev, 6, the four children of Svitlana from Mykolayiv, crossed the border into Romania at Isaccea on April 1st. The children spent some time playing in the kids safe space created by Unicef at the border.

They are planning to go to Germany, and Svitlana hopes they will continue their life there for a while, away from the violence and the danger in Ukraine. The children also took their notebooks to continue their studies and the boys started learning German on YouTube. 

I think that children can have a better future in Europe. Of course, they are great patriots. For them, Ukraine and sports mean everything”, says Svitlana.

She put in her luggage, together with her children’s diplomas and medals, even their ball, all their good memories, as a family. The moment of peace back in Ukraine, when they were happy together, participated in sports contests and their victories. Svitlana took with her not only her children’s medals, but also their hope to be back one day and win some more, in peace. 

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UNICEF is working with partners to establish a network of Blue Dots across migration routes for mothers and children, to provide key services and help ensure their safety all throughout the region. 

Currently, there are six Blue Dot hubs in Romania, in the border crossing areas at Sighetu Marmației, Siret, Isaccea, Albița, Huși, as well as in Brașov. 

Supported by UNICEF, they were created in partnership with the Ministry of Family, Youth and Equal Opportunities through the National Authority for the Protection of Children's Rights and Adoption and with the support of local authorities, county authorities and local NGOs. Thousands of refugees have so far received at least one support service in this Blue Dot.