One can heal themselves by giving back
Elena found safety and an effective way to help other refugees from Ukraine.
Elena, 34, a social worker at the Blue Dot in Moldova, helps women and children in Ukraine return to everyday lives. Although several months ago, she fled with her children from Mykolaiv, in Ukraine a town on the front lines of the war, and found safety at a refugee center in Chisinau. Here she and her family got help from the Blue Dot specialists.
'Now I can help families in Ukraine as I was helped,' says Elena as she prepares to provide food and basic necessities for refugee families at the Blue Dot Mother and Baby Corner. She says war stole peace and her children's home. Since February 24, Mykolaiv has become a dangerous place. ‘The most affected were the elderly and mothers with young children,' she remembers. 'We always slept dressed. I didn't know how the night would end. Across from our balcony, there were rifles and military vehicles. When soldiers shot, the house shook. That was very scary.'
For a few weeks, the garage became their home, and when the rocket attacks and sirens began to visibly mark her children's mental health, Elena decided to leave her country. 'The school of my youngest son was destroyed. The older son's high school is intact, but it has been turned into a center where people get water and food,' she continued. Due to the frequent attacks, the town's residents no longer had access to water and electricity. 'They gave us water for technical use, but we couldn't use it. We couldn't even wash our hands.’
Elena remembers the April day she arrived at the refugee center with two children. 'I crossed the border on foot. When we finally arrived in Moldova, the Blue Dot workers asked us what we needed. I needed psychological support. I got help, for which I am grateful. They also had clothes, toys, notebooks, and books. Games, developmental activities, and sports helped my children forget a little about the war. My moments of happiness are when my children can do what they like, go to sleep, and wake up without fear,' Elena shared.
While Elena continues her workday at the Blue Dot, 9-year-old Victor paints, guided by Blue Dot's animators, and 15-year-old Timur plays football in the yard with other teenagers. Victor took English and karate classes in Ukraine, and his older brother practiced freestyle wrestling. 'In the future, I want to become a performance athlete and help my family. I communicate with colleagues, although many have left and will not return. I lost many friends. I want to meet them again, to rebuild our friendship when the war is over,' Timur says.
Timur tries to spend more time with his younger brother, who would have been the most affected by everything he experienced and saw in Ukraine. 'He shudders at every word about the war. So, I try to support him, cheer him up, and teach some elements of the sport.'
As long as peace is far, Elena is grateful to be able to help other Ukrainian people. 'I asked: 'Can I, like you, work and help our people?' I was accepted into this team, and I am happy. We strive to provide children with clothes and food. They smile and leave happy. Moreover, they forget about what is happening at home when we work with them.
Instead, they express all their emotions through drawing or creative activities. Someone draws the sun, and someone else draws the blue sky. After a few months, we can see the difference. The drawings used to be sorrowfull, now they are more joyfull, she proudly shares.
UNICEF is working with UNHCR, local authorities, and partners to bring safety, stability, and advice to families fleeing the war in Ukraine. With the financial support of the EU Humanitarian Aid, the Government of Great Britain, the Government of Austria, and the USA BPRM US Bureau of Population, UNICEF founded eight Blue Dot points in Moldova. As a result, refugee families benefit from safe spaces for rest, creative activities for children, psychological and legal consultation services, food products, and hygiene essentials. To date, more than 40,000 refugees have benefited from the services of the Blue Dot, founded in Moldova, including more than 20,000 children.