A warmer winter for refugee children in Serbia

After a delivery of warm clothing, children at a refugee and migrant centre look forward to playing in the snow

By UNICEF Serbia
Children play in a group, Serbia
UNICEF Serbia/ 2017/ Emil Vas
14 November 2017

As winter approaches in Serbia, children at a refugee and migrant centre are looking forward to playing in the snow after receiving a delivery of warm clothing.

DIVLJANA, Serbia, 14 November 2017 – As you watch 8-year-old Aya Rekani playing with her friends among the fallen leaves, it’s difficult to imagine how different her life was just a year ago.

This time last year, Aya and her parents, sister and four brothers made the long journey to Serbia from Iraq. On the first day of 2017 they arrived at the Reception Centre for Refugees and Migrants in Divljana, a small village in eastern Serbia.

“We lived in Mosul [Iraq] until 2016. Then we simply had to leave,” says Aya’s father Zumer Rakani. “We headed to Sweden or Germany, but now we live here. Aya and the kids are enjoying the new school.”

A new life

Every weekday, Aya and 20 other children from the centre get on a little school bus that takes them to the closest primary school in the nearby town Bela Palanka.

After school, Aya works on her homework in her room in the centre, which she shares with her family. She is curious and bright, so doing homework is usually not hard at all. What happens after the homework is done – playing with her friends – is an additional motivation.

Playing outdoors is when everyone is happiest and the centre, which sits on the slopes of Suva Mountain, is a little haven for outdoors activities. Its tiny playground with slides, seesaws and swings is now covered in fallen leaves and acorns.

Children stand in line to receive winter clothes, Serbia
UNICEF Serbia/ 2017/ Emil Vas
Aya and her brother Zaid stand in line to receive the warm winter clothes.
Ready for winter

As winter approaches, Aya and the other 50 or so children who live in the centre are eagerly awaiting snow. That’s why the arrival of new winter clothes is met with great excitement.

It only takes a couple of minutes for a line to form in the main room of the centre. One package after another and in half an hour all the residents are busy unpacking their winter clothes.

Socks, jackets, warm sweaters. In the blink of an eye, Aya has unwrapped her new clothes and put on a new, warm sweater.

“It is soft and warm. And nice. I like the colour and that it makes me feel warm,” she says. She hurries outside to join her friends playing on a slide.

There is not much time left for playing with the fallen leaves and acorns before winter and snow arrive. But with their new warm winter clothes, the children in Divljana are now ready for the cold.

Children play outdoors, Serbia
UNICEF Serbia/ 2017/ Emil Vas
Children playing outdoors wearing their new winter clothes.

Thanks to a generous donation from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), UNICEF provided warm winter shoes and clothes for the children staying in the Divljana Reception Centre for Refugees and Migrants. Now everybody is ready for winter and the first snow.

>> Learn more: Around the world, nearly 50 million children have migrated across borders or been forcibly displaced. Stand with refugee and migrant children.