According to humanitarian organizations, 580,000 children from both sides of the demarcation line were affected by the military conflict These are only those who are faced with military actions directly. More than 200,000 children are still living on the conflict line.

Ukraine must protect its children, who are already the victims and those, who continue to suffer because of military actions in the east. However, according to public organizations, because of the complexity of procedures, prescribed by officials, for almost a year (from April 2017 to February 2018), only 8 children were able to receive the status of victims of military operations. Some of them have serious injuries, traumas, lost an arm or leg. In front of one child, the mother died. And although more than two years have passed, the child cannot sleep because of the received psychotrauma, and psychologists still work with the child.

8 children out of 580,000! And this despite the fact that such a status does not yet give any privileges. It is needed now primarily to understand the scale of the problem – how many children have really suffered and how many of them need help, and also to forecast and plan real assistance, for example, – children rehabilitation, treatment, recovery, psychological care, training.

While the state is turning a blind eye, international and domestic humanitarian missions and public organizations continue to help children and families affected by the military conflict in the east of the country. One of them is the International charitable organization “Charitable Foundation “SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine”” – works with such children and families in Luhansk region, including thanks to the initiative “Pope for Ukraine”.

“In the gray zone, for example, in Luhansk region, we see that families are migrating, – Andrii Chuprikov, the national director of “SOS Children’s Towns of Ukraine”, says. – It is difficult to survive and rent a house without work. Families are forced to return to the territory beyond the control of the Government of Ukraine, at least there is housing there. Often the reason for this is insufficient access to medical care, for example, in Stanytsya Luhanska or in places, where, in fact, the infrastructure is destroyed and there are not enough qualified doctors, especially a narrow profile”.

However, some families, nevertheless, still remain. “If we had not gone anywhere in the acute phase of the war, we are not going anywhere now, – Olena Kyrychenko says, a native of the Novopskov village of Luhansk region, located just farther from the line of demarcation than Stanytsya Luhanska, where her husband came from and where they lived with their family. – When the ATO started, my husband remained to protect the house from marauders and possible fires, besides, he is a veterinarian, during the war – the only one in the whole district, in which there are a lot of pensioners, so he continued to work at his own risk. He even was in captivity. They were finding out his personality, it was very unpleasant and also scary. But everything turned out okay.

Meanwhile, Olena with two sons went to Novopskov. The eldest son went there to school, the younger one was hardly got into a kindergarten – there were no places.

In 2015, Olena and her children returned to Stanytsya Luhanska. The children went to school. But, fearing that the constant shelling at night will be even in the daytime, Olena went to work as a school nurse. Worked a year, until the next maternity leave – in September 2016 she gave birth to a daughter.

The family house is located directly on the line of demarcation – about 200 meters from the roadblock, which is considered a checkpoint. During all shelling, Olena and her husband have repeatedly restored and repaired it on their own, and thanks to help with building materials from the NRC (Norwegian Refugee Council). They covered the roof, inserted windows, repaired the fence… But until now the place is not suitable for living, because the street is next to the line of demarcation. There is light, but there is no gas. In this house, the family now holds a subsidiary farm, which helps to survive – they breed pigs and rabbits. They live now in the house of her husband’s parents.

“When we returned home in 2015, there were very few people, – Olena says. – Now there are many. Peaceful life is gradually improving. There are a lot of settlers here. On the one hand, it is good that the village is developing. On the other – everywhere terrible queues. It is impossible to get into either Oschadbank or the Social Security Administration.

There are many infectious diseases. The district hospital lacks doctors, especially narrow specialists. Sometimes military doctors come, work 1-3 months, and then go. This is a problem. Luhansk was near. Everyone is used to the fact that complicated operations, diagnostics, consultations are there. Now it’s very expensive to go to Severodonetsk, Rubizhne or Lysychansk. And the roads are bad. Everyone is afraid of difficult health situations.

In 2015, there was a Klondike of working places in Stanytsya Luhanska. Many people went from here. Now practically all jobs are occupied. But if the expert is good, then this is not an acute problem.

We are slowly working. We manage somehow – for food and stuff for a family with three children you need a lot of money.

What will happen next – I do not know. There is no hope to return to our house yet. Even if there is a lull, then all houses are disfigured, the streets are broken… There are many military men. Immediately opposite the house is a plantation that goes to the river. It is dangerous with children there.

We were helped with the warming of the ceiling in the house of my husband’s parents. We received both food and hygiene kits. But now we are very grateful not even for this (although with three children all this is always very necessary), but for psychological help. A year and a half older sons lived separately from their father and not in their own home. And when we returned home, the night shelling continued. Both adults and children in our family needed psychological help. The older, 14-year-old son, also has a transitional teenage period. The average 9-year-old has nowhere to play – there are no playgrounds here, the street is isolated, all the neighbors have left.

I had a severe postpartum depression. Family problems began, it reached the point of divorce. I probably would have left alone with three children, if not for the psychological assistance provided by the initiative. For this, many thanks. And for advice and guidance on raising children. Iryna Volodymyrivna, who worked with us, is a psychologist from God. This is invaluable for our family. And, of course, thanks for the food and hygiene kits. This is very necessary and important for us”.

“Two months after the start of the project “Pope for Ukraine”, – Kateryna Duvanska, the project coordinator, says – we have already spent the first tranche. The number of our direct beneficiaries is 4,934 people. These are the people, who received from us some kind of help or service. We work in three territories along the line of delineation – in Popasna, Stanytsya Luhanska, Novy Aidar districts, as well as in the cities Severodonetsk and Starobilsk, where we have stationary offices.

157 sets for newborns and 82 for delivery have already been distributed. On the line of demarcation, we issued 2,000 sets of baby food products and 2,000 sets of children’s hygiene. The families that are supported by the stationary offices of “SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine” in Severodonetsk, Starobilsk and Stanytsya Luhanska, we also had given 200 grocery sets in January.

In the course of the project, 57 psychological consultations were provided. Psychologists and psychotherapists worked with families and children. During these two months, 500 first aid kits were distributed.

17 cases of the purchase of individual medicines are also under consideration. The pharmacists work with the recipes that we provided. They order drugs for children with chronic diseases, who are registered by narrow specialists and take these drugs regularly. Such drugs are usually expensive, and many parents do not have the opportunity to purchase them. In addition, many of these drugs are in short supply, they need to be specially ordered for a specific person, because they are not always freely available in pharmacies. Therefore, pharmacists are now processing our application and ordering what they do not have.

At 40 sites in Severodonetsk, Starobilsk and Stanytsya Luhanska was carrying out construction work. A priority for us were families of migrants, resettled more than three years ago, finally decided to stay here and looked for houses in these regions. The financial resources of these families have already been exhausted. And some agree on paying for houses by particles, trying to get their own place and start writing their lives from scratch, creating a comfort for themselves and their families. This is especially true for families, living in rural areas. So, we gave priority to such families, who have already taken this difficult decision for themselves. We are trying to help settle in a new place both to them and to local foster families, took under their wing the affected children”.

One of them is the family of Olha Ovcharenko from Antonivka village of Starobilsk district. 50-year-old woman has two already adult biological children and four grandchildren. She decided to take adopted children to her family back in 2009. Now Olha Mykolayivna brings up four adopted sons aged from 9 to 17 years. The youngest became a member of their family in the summer of 2016. And then it became hard for the woman to go to work at the hostel, where she was on duty at night.

“They helped us with the rehabilitation of children in the camps, food and medical kits, psychological consultations for me and the children. Children also participate in numerous trainings, organized by the stationary office of “SOS Children’s Villages Ukraine” in Starobilsk. The elders are in the youth program, which helps them prepare for an independent life. After all, the eldest son is already 17 years old, and he is about to fly out of the family nest and will want to live separately”.

The family lives in their own home. Recently, Olha Mykolayivna’s 80-year-old neighbor gave them his house, where the elder sons will live. Subsequently – with their own families. “But the house was in a very neglected state. It was impossible to live in it – it demanded serious repairs, which the family would never have been able to do. Now, thanks to this help, repair works are underway in the house, and soon it will become livable – there they installed new windows, plastered the walls. For this the family is very grateful”.

Text: Hanna Drozd

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