At Romanian border, Ukrainian teacher loves the sound of silence

War pushed Olga and her daughter Leona out of their home and on the move. The Blue Dot hub supports them with essential services to stay safe.

Roxana Grămadă
Leona (9), Villi her cat, and her mother Olga wait for their train to Bucharest
UNICEF/ Adrian Holerga
28 March 2022

ROMANIA, Sighetu Marmației, 13 March 2022 - When Olga, her nine-year-old daughter Leona, and Villi the cat left Kyiv, there were about six families still living in their building. Electricity was still running, but nearby areas were getting disconnected every day. Then Olga heard on the news that more troops were coming in and decided to take what could have been their last chance to leave. They found a friend to drive them to the Romanian border.  

“We have to leave our homes, our relatives, our friends, and go to other countries,” says Olga, who’s a teacher by profession. “It's like in the movies, but this is not a movie. This is reality. This is our lives.” 

The last thing she remembers is how she thought she might never see her home again. But parenting instincts prevailed. Leona was afraid to go to sleep. She was afraid to go to the shop. She started asking questions that Olga found difficult to answer. So Olga moved toward her goal: a future for her daughter free of war. 

It took a day and a half to get to Sighetu Marmatiei, one of the border crossing points between Romania and Ukraine. The first thing Olga noticed was the silence. 

“Now it's quiet. Very quiet. So this is good,” says Olga, catching her breath in the Mother and Child tent at the border, while Leona draws. 

The tent is a space for mothers and children available in the Blue Dot, a UNICEF-supported hub where families are offered the first point of contact and services: registration, legal advice, psychological counselling, and emergency health services. They are also provided with toiletries, baby food, hot meals, transportation, and accommodation if needed. 

“One man helped me with my bags and another woman helped me to register and she got me some information about the train tickets,” Olga explains. “[Although it was] a lot of information and very direct, [it was] very clear for me. I want to thank them a lot.” She feels she was helped “from the heart.” 

The purpose of the Blue Dot hub is to ensure that all children are monitored, protected and safe during every step of their travels, particularly those who are most vulnerable. Since the war broke out in Ukraine, the Blue Dot hub in Sighetu has helped thousands of families.  

Olga, Leona, and Villi are waiting for their train later in the afternoon to go to Bucharest, where they have friends. 

Now that they are safe, Olga worries about sending Leona back to school. A teacher herself, she knows the importance of a quality education and keeping children learning.  

“I hope that maybe I can find a job and she can study,” Olga says wistfully. “She's only in primary school. She needs a normal education process.”  

It’s bittersweet for her when she thinks about her students, too. She teaches English. “I love my children. But now they are all far away from Kyiv.” 

Mothers and children continue to flee Ukraine. Over 400,000 have already entered Romania. The Blue Dots are a network of services meant to accompany them on their routes and provide a minimum of key services to keep them safe throughout territories neighboring Ukraine. 

The Blue Dot in Sighetu Marmației was the first opened in Romania, in close partnership between UNICEF in Romania, the Ministry of Family and Youth through The National Authority for the Protection of the Rights of the Child and Adoption, The General Directorate of Social Assistance and Child Protection, the County Council of Maramures, and many other regional and local authorities and NGOs.