Alexandra is a psychologist working at the Iasi orphanage centre in Romania, supported by Children on the Edge. The centre houses and cares for over 40 Ukrainian refugee children and provides daily activities, social work and help with trauma recovery. Read her story...
When the Russian army invaded Ukraine last February, among the thousand and thousands of fleeing refugees, were 43 children from an orphanage that was bombed in the attacks. After a long train ride which the children described as ‘dirty, scary and dark’, and a bus journey where the children could hear explosions around them, they arrived in Romania.
Experts describe the situation these children have faced as ‘triple trauma’. Having a background where they have lost their parents is compounded not only by the terror of fleeing a military attack, but the huge upset of arriving in an alien country, surrounded by strangers and not speaking the language.
LEARNING TO EXPRESS EMOTIONS
Alexandra is a psychologist working at the centre - supported by Children on the Edge - that houses and cares for these children, providing daily activities, social work and help with trauma recovery. “I definitely could see signs of PTSD in some of the children,” she explains. “Over time though they have developed trust. It takes a long while.”
Alexandra explains how the children were very withdrawn and closed to start with, but now they knock on her office door in the centre every day. They love to come in and talk about the ups and downs of their days at school, they always want hugs and they have learned about expressing their emotions.
When asked about how the children have been encouraged to process their feelings, Alexandra explains how they have used a mixture of picture cards and play therapy for the younger ones, and then semi-structured or even informal interviews with the teenagers.
LEARNING AND ADAPTING
Alexandra explained that it hasn't just been psychological problems they have needed to work on but that, when children arrived, many were developmentally delayed in their speech and didn’t know the basics of hygiene or using the toilet.
All of the children now have an age appropriate understanding of these areas, and have also become more interested in the daily activities on offer. They have enjoyed learning Romanian and like to try out the new words and phrases on the staff.
MAKING FRIENDS AND HAVING FUN
One thing Alexandra has noticed is that children’s relationships with each other have also improved greatly since their arrival.
When asked about whether staff working with the children are trying to prepare them for a return home, Alexandra explained that instead, they are focusing on making them feel safe here in Romania.
As the conflict in Ukraine enters a second year, Children on the Edge are committed to helping the most marginalised refugees, like these children.