By Mariia Vitrukh, PhD candidate, Arizona State University (from Ukraine)
Since 24 February 2022 when the Russians invaded Ukraine, instead of learning the types of dinosaurs, Ukrainian children know different types of missiles and their potential damage. They learned to differentiate tanks, military planes, and other lethal weapons. Ukrainian parenting has also taken a very unexpected and horrific turn – Ukrainian parents must learn how to tell their children what war is, instruct them how to hide during the violent roar of the air defence sirens, and the rule of two walls, in case there is not enough time to hide in shelter.
The most shocking experience of parenting now, though, is preparing small paper cards with the name of a child, blood type, chronic diseases, and phone numbers of the closest relatives abroad in case parents are killed during shelling. Parents instruct their children what they should do if they see that their mother or father are missing or dead.
Since 22 February 2022, there have been 7 million children of war in Ukraine, over 117 children dead and more than 150 injured. Many children became orphans or are reported missing. With almost 4 million Ukrainian refugees in a month of full invasion, most families have been torn apart, fathers staying in Ukraine while mothers with children are seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. Most of them do not know when and how they will be able to go back and reunite.
493 educational institutions have been damaged and 73 destroyed. Schools and kindergartens have been closed immediately with the full invasion, most now turned into refugee shelters, or completely destroyed under heavy shelling. Such conditions created the situation when there is no physical space to continue education. On Monday, 14 March some schools renewed their education online, children joining mostly via zoom.
Such approach is not the best solution, but allows children engage in some schooling and reconnect with their peers. “The teacher called and postponed the lessons until 11 am today. Children need at least a few hours of sleep before the classes as most of them spent the whole night hiding in shelters,” my sister explained to me during the conversation on 14 March. But only those children have a chance to attend online studies who stay in relatively safe cities with sporadic shelling. Those cities under heavy shelling do not have the luxury of schooling, with children mostly watching free YouTube cartoons or educational videos.
The most drastic need is humanitarian aid. For most direct impact, the National Bank of Ukraine has an account which is set to support refugee families in Ukraine – this is also the best way at the moment to support children making international donations: https://bank.gov.ua/en/news/all/natsionalniy-bank-vidkriv-rahunok-dlya-gumanitarnoyi-dopomogi-ukrayintsyam-postrajdalim-vid-rosiyskoyi-agresiyi
Please DO NOT donate to the Red Cross – they’ve recently signed an agreement with Russia on opening their center in Russia.
Below is a list of groups doing humanitarian work in Ukraine and with refugees from this war. The first link is for a reliable Arizona-based organisation that is collecting donations and provides humanitarian aid to Ukrainian families.
- https://pokrovachurchphoenix.org/ providing material support for families
- https://voices.org.ua/en/donat/ support for children’s mental health in Ukraine
The official website of the Ministry of Education in Ukraine provides the interactive map of educational institutions destroyed since 24 February, 2022 in Ukraine, with images of schools https://saveschools.in.ua/en/?fbclid=IwAR0g_Z6Ms7iiFju_D16p8-8_TzIIMlS-uS8gQNw_RWd-jZAWReTjqhiaHV0