March 21, 2022

A new psychological assistance point for refugees has been opened in Kyiv.


«The children we are currently working with experience a lot of anxiety, have a lot of unspoken emotions. The drawings they created in art therapy are very sad and tense — you can see that there are many fears behind it. The child can not yet show everything that is inside him, he is like a compressed spring. The children I have seen do not feel safe, their psyche is unprotected. We still have a lot of work ahead of us, a lot of help that needs to be provided to children affected by the war» – psychologist
«Help for Ukraine» Iryna Bogun.

The story of Maria Mazur

On february 24, Maria Mazur woke up to the sound of shelling as Russia launched its attack on Ukraine. She wasted no time. With a few packed clothes, medicine, and two cats in tow, the 41-year-old squeezed into a small car with her husband and three children and left Kyiv. But shortly after their arrival in Western Ukraine, air raid sirens sounded. They spent the first of many sleepless nights in the basement of a friend’s house, huddled with other displaced families.

The next day, the stress got worse. Her 10-year-old daughter, Maja, could hardly breathe; her legs were shaking and her heart racing. “There was a lot of noise and I began to feel that I can’t overcome these feelings, that something will happen and I don’t know what it would be,” Maja recalls. “When I tried to concentrate on breathing, I closed my eyes and saw explosions of bombs, so I couldn’t concentrate on breathing.”

It was a panic attack that lasted for more than an hour. “I really didn’t know what to do because it was the first time that I had experienced something like this,” says her mother. Stretches and exercises, hugs, and a phone call with the girl’s godmother, a psychologist, provided some relief in the moment. “What helped me was that my psychologist said that this is normal,” says Maja.

Children’s lives are at the mercy of adults — who themselves struggle in times of war. About 500,000 children were forced to leave their homes. These children had to leave friends, pets and toys. They hid in basements and bomb shelters from bombs. They are very tired, but they cannot sleep and eat properly. Some have emotional outbursts or talk of shame and survivors’ guilt. Others are overly excited at one moment and then immediately withdraw because of stress and anxiety.

These are signs of trauma beginning to manifest itself. To help, we are rushing to offer online therapy and art activities to provide a bit of normality. Our psychological care and drawing sessions in Ukrainian refugee centers and orphanages, helping displaced children use art and games as a way of dealing with the reality of war. It doesn’t mean that we will cure all the kids just by this, but it is a crucial step for stabilizing them, for making them calm down, for taking anxieties and stress from them