In Ukraine there are about 100,000 orphans, many of whom are “social orphans”. These are children whose parents, for example, stay abroad for a long time. The city of Lodz, located in the center of Poland, is trying in every way to play its part and take as many orphans as possible. For example, a Ukrainian orphanage from Kovil, northwest of the country, was able to move into a building in the city a week ago.
As volunteers continue to assemble Ikea cabinets and 94 Ukrainian children, ages 3 to 17, patiently waiting for their lunch, director Halina takes stock of a frantic few weeks. “It was really hard, but I don’t want to complain or talk about the problems because I am so grateful for what the people of Lodz have done for us. They gave everything we needed,” he said in a trembling voice.
‘Protecting children in the best possible way’
Hanna Zhdanovsa, the city’s mayor, can’t hold back her tears when children sing the Ukrainian national anthem and thank her with flowers and drawings. It made the care of children and orphans the spearhead of its policy. “We are doing our best to accommodate them and we are in constant contact with the authorities in Ukraine. Not only to find out how we can get more children here, but also to get an idea of emergency aid that is needed right away,” it seems.
Despite the fact that the children are going through a very difficult period, the atmosphere among them is very good. There seemed to be little or no signs of trauma from the war. “We are working with a teacher and a psychologist to provide help, but most of the children have noticed little to no war,” Halina said. “In Ukraine, we protected them as best we could from the sounds of bombs and guns, and saved them from the most horrific scenes when they fled, by playing a game with them at the time where they had to wear a blindfold.”
Suddenly we heard gunshots and bombs.
Terror in Ukraine still burns in her retina, 24-year-old Irina, who works as a teacher in an orphanage. “Everyone wanted to get ready for school or work that particular day, but Putin thought otherwise,” she says. “Suddenly we heard gunshots and bombs and we knew the war had begun.”
Therefore, orphans in Lodz managed to cross the border in time, but for several seconds it began to pass mercilessly. On Sunday, seventeen young children arrived at the orphanage who had been in air raid shelters in Ukraine for a week. They had to go to the hospital upon arrival due to breathing problems. So Director Helena hopes that the humanitarian corridors will start again soon. Above all, there should be a “no-fly” zone over Ukraine, so that children can at least be evacuated from war zones. Otherwise, buses and cars used to rescue children may be bombed.”
According to the latest information, thousands of orphans have already been transferred to various Polish cities, the Czech Republic and Lithuania, including through the Polish organization Happy Kids. As a member of the European Committee of Regions, Mayor Zdanowska also advocates placing orphans into smaller groups to create a more family atmosphere. Anyone applying for this will also receive a financial contribution from the government.