At the cost of a dream
How the war in Ukraine is reducing the chances for Ukrainian children to be adopted
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“Each day this war has taken from these children is critical because it means that each day their chances of being placed into foster families are diminishing. For them every new day of the war makes the dream of a loving family fade away...”
Daria Dashyuk and her colleagues from Dnepr fled the war in Ukraine to help fifty-two Ukrainian children in alternative care reach a safe place in Romania.
Back in Ukraine, Daria used to work in the public residential childcare institutions for children separated from vulnerable families, including children with disabilities. Many children in this residential childcare facility were facing difficult life situations and some of these children had already been living in this institution.
When the war in Ukraine started, no place in the country was safe. In addition to intensifying bombing, the courts in Ukraine stopped working and the process of placing children with adoptive parents stopped as well. Both staff of the center and the children were in despair.
“Many children in the center had relatives and they were worried they might never meet them again. Some children were crying as they were scared of the war.”- says Daria.
As the fear for children’s safety was rising, the administration of the center decided to evacuate them to Romania. Now, in the face of so many frustrations and desperation, children were facing another challenge - they had to leave their country and travel to an unknown place.
“We were given only twenty minutes to make up our minds. I almost immediately decided I was accompanying the children on this route.”-recalls Daria.
Yulia Antonenko, Daria’s colleague, also joined the children for the trip. She recalls that they were travelling by train. The route which usually took a few hours, took them two days. With every siren they heard, the train slowed down and made stops to ensure the danger was gone.
“I remember that every 2-3 hours we were taking turns to take care of the youngest children, who were just a few months old. We fed them, played with them, cuddled - all to help them calm down. From a medical nurse, I turned into a babysitter.”-says Yulia.
When the group arrived in Romania, they learned the name of the city - Iasi - which is one of the oldest cities in Romania. Here, the group was welcomed by the local social protection agency and put into a two-floor residential building with all the necessary conditions. With UNICEF’s support, children in the center received access to psychologist, translators and tutors.
However, the first few weeks were hard for children to adapt. The country, the language, everything was strange to them. Once, during a sightseeing trip organized by the local social protection agency, Yulia and Daria witnessed how children started screaming and falling on the floor covering their heads when a local ambulance passed by with a loud siren on. That is how they understood the extent to which children’s well-being was affected.
„Only now, after six months in Romania and a series of therapies, I can tell that children are less stressed. With thanks to tutors, they also started learning English and Romanian to continue their education”- shares Daria.
Yulia says that since the trip and after months they spent together, children became very attached to her and Daria. Yet, Yulia and Daria hope that despite the war and all the challenges, these children will find their loving families.
“Every child wants to be loved and taken care of. Nothing is better than a loving family.”