A Driving License For Hope

Alex and His Road to Safety and Freedom

Alex, Ukrainian refugee
16 August 2022

“You won’t get anywhere if you stay still; you have to move, to travel, to meet people,” tells us Alex, a very ambitious 15-year-old from Cherkasy. He had to flee the dangers of the war together with his mother, Yulia, and his younger brother Karim, with whom he now interacts in a very protective manner.  

He has a clear plan to learn everything about cars, from the entire list of driving license categories, especially “the hard ones”, to all the engineering that goes under the hood. This, he says, will grant him the freedom to travel all around Europe, from country to country, while also supporting his family. “There’s nothing else for me back in Ukraine,” he explains.   

Back in his hometown of Cherkasy, they lived just a few minutes away from the waterfront, so his days were spent exploring the urban and natural landscapes. “Especially all those dangerous construction sites,” says his mother with a big smile. “One day, he came home with a scooter that he secretly bought,” just one example of his passion for anything with wheels and an engine. 

They left Ukraine on April 1st, and their journey to Brasov was long, hard, and dangerous. Setting their sights on Poland, they initially had to go to Turkey. From there they  took a bus to Bucharest. It was an arduous trip, in a large group of refugees, with cumbersome luggage and lots of vulnerable, small children. In Bucharest, one of the ladies that worked as a volunteer in the crowded shelter where they were first settled told them about Brasov and the CATTIA center. Because his mother had never been to the mountains, she loved it instantly and they all decided to stay here. 

Alex, Ukrainian refugee

The UNICEF Blue Dot CATTIA center in Brasov provided shelter and support for thousands of families of Ukrainian refugees. The Blue Dots are dedicated refugee children and family support hubs and represent an integrated model that provides support for the most immediate needs of children and women and include child friendly areas. Among the services provided are travel information and counseling for refugees; registration of the most vulnerable; spaces dedicated to mothers and children; psychological therapy; first aid on hygiene, health and nutrition; basic legal advice; referral services for cases of violence or health conditions, etc. At the Blue Dot centers, families can be provided with blankets, warm clothes, sanitary kits, toys, hygiene products and baby food. 

“It’s the best center I’ve seen, such a peaceful, pleasant place. You should be proud of it,” assures us Alex’s mother. He also likes it a lot and, yes, he does want to go back home, as they have a lot of relatives that stayed behind, but they do seriously consider moving here for good. “Even if I were to go back home, I would still come back here, to visit.” 

“It really helps us that we’re a small community of Ukrainians here, it helps to hear your language around you,” says Alex.


He understands that speaking several languages is a superpower and it’s also something that’s fun to learn. So, after Ukrainian and Russian, he wants to perfect his English, using games and the internet, then Romanian, which “sounds a lot like Italian or French,” and maybe another one, like Turkish or another European language from wherever his travels and work will take him.    

“I want to thank you, Romanians, for the way you received us,” he tells us, adding a very real and mature advice: “You have to learn to appreciate what you have today, because war or tragedy can come at any time.” 

But, as with his professional plans, he’s an optimist when it comes to the future of this part of Europe. “We want to join you, soon, in this European family; we all want to be Europeans.” And to live in  peace.