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Ukrainian family standing in a queue to receive food and non-food items
20 February 2023

Ukraine conflict: one year anniversary

Together, we're building a brighter future for Ukrainian refugees

Since the Ukraine conflict started on 24 February 2022, World Vision UK has received almost £10m from the UK public to help Ukrainian refugees - thank you!

Over 650,000 Ukrainians have received assistance, including food, shelter, cash, hygiene kits, education, medical supplies and Child Friendly Spaces, thanks in part to your support. Your help has been a lifeline to so many Ukrainians.

Working with partners and donors, World Vision’s Global Partnership has operations in 24 municipalities in Ukraine, 15 in Romania, 32 in Moldova, and four in Georgia. We have been able to deliver life-saving assistance to people living near the frontline, while our programmes in safer areas support longer term needs of displaced children and families.

Ukrainian refugee children
Ukrainian refugee children at a World Vision Child Friendly Space in Romania

Along with providing physical aid, psychosocial support for refugee children has been just as vital. Our Child Friendly Spaces have been a haven, where Ukrainian children can forget their fears for a brief time, put aside memories of the violence and conflict they witnessed, and take a moment to have fun.

And helping child refugees continue some form of education has been a priority too. Summer camps, education supplies and even an education app, developed with the Ministry of Education and Science, are ensuring children can keep learning. The app has learning content for school children from grades 1-4 and includes animated instruction videos and mini games. Available in Google Play, over 16,000 children have downloaded the app, while new games are being prepared with input from teachers.

Ukrainian refugee brothers
Maksym, 14, and Oleksandr, nine, attend children's activities

How one family reacted to news of the Ukraine conflict

Olena and her two children (Maksym and Oleksandr - pictured above) have been staying near Kyiv. But back home in Kherson, they lived under occupation for months before finally managing to flee in September. Olena’s family and others are supported with basic needs and psychosocial support, including art therapy, through an organisation called Divchata, who partners with World Vision.

"We thought it was just a dream"

Olena recounts the day the war began one year ago, on 24 February:

“[The year] started like everyone else, normally. But of course, on the morning of 24 February, everything turned upside down. Our morning began with a call from my husband’s sister. She said that the war had started. Of course, we didn’t believe it. We were sleeping so we thought it was just a dream. Then when we went out onto the street, we heard an explosion. It was terrifying.

“We woke up [the children] and said, ‘calm down, pack your stuff, the war had begun’. We started packing our things.

“But where to run? What to do? Of course, we didn’t know.

“My husband went to work. I was at home with my children. Then he called me and said I should fill up my car with fuel. So I went to the gas station. There was a very huge line. And for the first time, as I was waiting in the line, I saw a missile flying above my head.

“Then we didn’t know where to go, to whom, what to do. So, we decided to stay at home. That’s how we spent half a year under occupation.”

"It scars them forever"

Olena continues, “The war has changed everybody. This war touched everyone. It’s impossible to forget. There is a chance for us [adults] to handle it and to control this situation, but children ... it scars them forever. As a mother I’ve always wanted them to be near me, to hug them so tight they can’t move.

“[Now] we are in constant contact with volunteers, who help us with anything and psychologically a lot too. Getting education and communicating with other students distracts from the war. It makes you come back to your normal life. They want peace. We want peace.

To donors and to the world, it’s the greatest thank you for the help and for the support of our nation, of our country.”

Bringing hope to Ukrainian refugee children

Stories from Ukrainian refugees

Katya and Liza are getting an education

At Cattia, in Brazov, Romania, Ukrainian refugees are finding welcome… and hope for a future.

Another Olena - a Ukrainian living in Romania - works with the World Vision education project. She says the work at Cattia, “helps Ukrainian children feel calm, to feel more at home. We know that if children are too noisy or too crazy, it's because of stress. That's why we not only play with them, we joke, we laugh together, we talk about many situations, and they start to become more and more open.

It's crucial to care for children and give them hope. We try to help them with different educational activities. When I teach, we talk about everything, we talk about the situation in Ukraine, and we compare the culture and art between Ukraine and Romania. Many of them feel very safe in Romania. When children come here, they're happy, they're smiling. Parents are very happy. When you see the results in children, it's a very big feeling. When you see that they change, they develop.

Katya, 10, says, “I feel calm when I attend this class. When I grow up, I want to be a gymnast. That’s what I used to do in Ukraine so that’s one of the things I miss about my country.”  

Liza, 12, adds, “I love to draw and read books. I feel relaxed when I attend this class. I also attended World Vision’s summer camp.” 

Ukrainian refugee girl

Svitlana hopes for peace

Svitlana, a pregnant mum-of-two, is a World Vision store volunteer. She explains, “I work at the World Vision social store. My family lives in an apartment in Brasov, and we are doing very well with all the help. I also receive food for my son. I help my fellow Ukrainian people by supporting them when they have questions at the store. I talk to them, and I also help translate for them. I'm doing good in my volunteer job here at the social store. We Ukrainians are so grateful. I will volunteer for as long as the war continues, but I hope for peace that the war will end soon so we can all return home.” 

Ukrainian refugee and child

Victoria's family were forced to flee their home

In Bucharest, Romania, the RomExpo centre has been repurposed as a refugee centre where Ukrainian families go and choose food, clothing and other necessities. World Vision provides food, hygiene items, baby supplies and more.

Victoria and her son Arsenij, 10, (pictured below) were forced to flee Odesa, Ukraine, and arrived in Bucharest. She explains, “It was a very difficult decision to leave our home, we had a regular life with jobs and our children were in school. But we had to leave because of the growing danger. There were warships off the coast of Odesa and military planes and drones were flying over the city. We could hear bombs and explosions near our home, the children were very afraid."

We had to leave my husband behind. We got on a bus and travelled to the border. There was a large crowd of people trying to cross. We had to wait in a line for more than 12 hours.” 

Victoria came to the RomExpo with her older son to receive a food parcel, as well as clothing and toys for her children. She says she has been able to continue working remotely. 

The centre is so helpful to us, we came in the winter and the children need clothes for warmer weather. I’m also here to get toys for my younger son, we couldn’t bring any with us. The food is also very helpful, food prices here in Romania are a lot higher than in Ukraine. We hope the war ends soon and we can just go back to our regular life, we just want to go back to our home in Odesa.”

Ukrainian refugee mother and son

Thanks to your support...

World Vision was among the first to respond to the Ukraine crisis, and we're committed to delivering long-term support over the next two to three years, helping children and families rebuild their lives over the longer term.

Along with responding to their most urgent needs of food, clean water and medical help, we also give families hope for the future - by providing education, income generating opportunities, child protection training and more.

Sign up to hear more about World Vision’s work and how you can change the lives of children around the world.

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