Commander Petrov’s Solidarity Lesson

At Isaccea, Romanian volunteers and authorities collaborate in unprecedented ways to aid Ukrainian mothers and children.

Roxana Grămadă
Comandantul Petrov
UNICEF/ Ioana Moldovan
05 July 2022

How does one make a rather small border checkpoint both efficient and welcoming to up to 6,000 people every day?  

And how does one adapt if incoming are not just any people, but mothers with children, whom war pushed away from their homes and families? Many have been on the road for days, after sleepless nights in shelters. 

Commander Daniel Petrov, Chief Inspector of the Emergency Inspectorate "Delta" of the Tulcea County received the mission to organize the operations base at the Isaccea Border Checkpoint. It was, for him and many others, a first.

“We learned from influx to influx, from ferry to ferry,” recalls Commander Petrov, and carefully lists each spot in the base where teams from the Emergency Inspectorate, the civil protection authority, as well as local and regional authorities, many organizations, and individual volunteers improved, every day, the welcome afforded to Ukrainian children and their families.

Off the ferry, children and families met Ukrainian speaking volunteers who explained what to expect as they entered Romania. 

Ukrainian refugees at Isaccea
UNICEF/Adrian Câtu

A wi-fi network appeared in the transit tents. “These citizens, once arrived in Romania, feel a stringent need to let their relatives know they have made it over alright.” After the first claustrophobia case, passage corridors were set up for medical assistance and other services. 

Three medical response and assistance teams were present on the base. Soon, they shared responsibilities: minor emergencies went to the SMURD ISU Tulcea team, moderate emergencies to the Tulcea County Ambulance Service, and major emergencies to the Samu Medical team from Spain. 

“The volunteers play a decisive role.” 

 

“The volunteers play a decisive role,” says Commander Petrov, who recounts how he organized a commandment of all participating entities and allocated the volunteers by areas: supply of cold and warm foods, of hydration beverages, hygiene for mothers and children, provision of clothing or phone cards, all distributed free of charge. 

“I got the people in front of me were not my subordinate troopers, but  members of civil society who cannot adapt to my style, yet I have the capacity to adapt to their working style. The operations at Isaccea carry on at least decently because of that.” 

 

 

After clearing through customs, three categories of newcomers would emerge: those to be picked up by family or friends, those with a destination and in need of transport to the large cities of Romania, and those without any plans.

With support from UNICEF and UNHCR, A Blue Dot was set up for all of them on the Isaccea base, a space where the incoming people could receive integrated services from several NGOs, entities, and authorities. 

Ukrainian child
UNICEF/Ioana Moldovan

Initially allocated for sleeping, the tent was transformed in an area for mothers and children: from registration, to transport and logistics, to recreation and play. 

“I understood the kind of support and vision provided by this concept [Blue Dot], and I am proud of the partnership with UNICEF. I learned how we can manage this area with maximum efficiency.” 

Tens of thousands of Ukrainian mothers and children have crossed the border at Isaccea since the start of the war. Most of them continued their journey in less than two hours. 

The Blue Dot Centres are a concept developed two years ago by UNICEF and UNHCR alongside their partners, authorities and NGOs.  

Currently, seven Blue Dot centres are operational in Romania, in the areas of the Sighetu Marmației, Siret, Isaccea, Albița, and Huși border checkpoints, as well as in Brașov and Bucharest (Sector 6).  

Supported by UNICEF, the Blue Dots were established in partnership with the Ministry of Family, Youth and Equal Chances through the National Authority for Child Protection and Adoption, and with the support of local and county authorities and local NGOs. Thousands of fleeing women and children have received at least one service at a Blue Dot in Romania.   

New Blue Dot centres are being organised presently.